Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID) yesterday arrested the chairman of Crescent Leather Products and Crescent Tanneries, MA Kader, in connection with three separate cases filed over laundering a total of Tk 919 crore in foreign currencies.
The move came after the CIID, a field office under the National Board of Revenue (NBR), found in its inquiry that Crescent Group colluded with officials of Janata Bank's Imamganj branch in Dhaka to launder a total of Tk 1,297.65 crore abroad against 657 fake export bills.
Legal action against other firms of the group was in the process, said a senior official of CIID, preferring anonymity.
“We will produce him [Kader] before court tomorrow [today]. We will seek remand and appeal to the court so that this becomes an example for those who are involved in money laundering,” said NBR Chairman Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan at a briefing at his office yesterday.
He made the comments after a meeting of a taskforce formed to prevent smuggling.
Apart from MA Kader, the CIID filed cases under the Money Laundering Prevention Act, 2012 against 16 others -- including Managing Director of Crescent Leather and Crescent Tanneries Sultana Begum, Rimex Footwear Chairman Abdul Aziz, its managing director Litul Jahan Mira and 13 present and former officials of Janata Bank -- with Chawkbazar Police Station.
The 13 bank officials against whom the cases were filed includes Mohammad Fakhrul Alam, who was general manager of Janata Bank during the time of the scam and is now deputy managing director of Bangladesh Krishi Bank; Md Zakir Hossain, who was also general manager of Janata at that time, and is deputy managing director of Sonali Bank; Rezaul Karim, the general manager of Janata Bank, and its deputy general managers-- Kazi Rois Uddin Ahmed, AKM Asaduzzaman and Md Iqbal; currently suspended assistant general manager Ataur Rahman Sarkar, suspended senior principal officers Khairul Amin and Mogreb Ali; suspended principal officer Muhammad Ruhul Amin; and suspended senior officers Saiduzzman, Abdullah Al Mamun and Moniruzzman.
NBR Chairman Mosharraf said the CIID found evidence of money laundering by the firms in an inquiry. He said the NBR would be careful so that no innocent persons are charged.
“I have given instruction to give charge sheet against those who are directly involved in the laundering,” he said.
Citing reports of Washington based firm Global Financial Integrity about the illicit transfer of US$ 5.9 billion through trade misinvoicing, Mosharraf said the money laundering cases filed against the firms are “trade-based”.
“There is no doubt that money laundering is taking place,” he said, adding that the NBR hae information on 10-12 money laundering related cases and it would take legal action after holding a meeting expected to take place in the first week of next month.
“They are going out of the country by being siphoned off and sometimes it is found that money in the banks are looted. So we want to send them a strong message.”
Apart from the CIID, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) also found proof of embezzlement of Tk 1,303.69 crore by the Crescent Group from the Janata bank branch, according to the findings of an ongoing ACC inquiry initiated in October last year.
However, ACC is yet to file any cases in this regard.
The developments came after a Bangladesh Bank report revealed last year that the business entity “skimmed” at least Tk 765 crore in the name of exports from the JB and the Bangladesh Bank (BB) between January 2017 and February 2018.
The total amount of loans taken by the Crescent Group from the JB stood at Tk 3,443 crore in October last year, and the borrower defaulted on the loan, forcing the state-owned bank to call for an auction to recover the money.
Responding to a question on inquiry by several agencies and filing of cases on the same incident, Mosharraf said any agency related to prevention of money-laundering could file cases.
For now, it would be determined whether further investigation would be conducted individually or jointly, he added.
“But I think a joint probe is better,” he said.
Mosharraf, responding to a question on the NBR's previous move on hiring an international firm to gather information on siphoned off money, said discussions had been conducted with several firms but they were exploring ways on how an international firm would be hired.