The High Court on Sunday in a ruling suo motu directed the government and the Anti-Corruption Commission to submit to it by December 17 details about the government officials, politicians, businessmen and others who have siphoned money abroad, including Malaysia, Singapore, the USA, Canada and Australia.
The court also directed that money could not be sent to foreign countries except through the Bangladesh Bank channel.
A online bench of Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder and Justice Ahmed Sohel issued the ruling after taking cognisance of foreign minister AK Abdul Momen’s November 18 public statement on the issue, which also many newspapers published the following day.
The minister said that he had received information from an unofficial channel that many Bangladeshis bought luxurious residences in a neighbourhood called Begum Para in Canada for millions of dollars laundered from Bangladesh.
Mainly, as the wives and children of a section of Bangladeshi millionaires live in the neighbourhood’s residences it has been named Begum Para.
It was largely believed that mainly politicians had bought residences there.
The court asked the ACC chairman, secretaries of the ministries of home and foreign affairs, Bangladesh Bank governor, Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit chief, National Board of Revenue chairman, inspector general of police and deputy commissioner of Dhaka to explain in four weeks why their inaction to prosecute the money launderers that include government officials, politicians, businessmen and bank officials would not be declared illegal.
The High Court set December 17 for the next hearing on the issue.
The court observed that those who siphoned money abroad are Bangladesh’s enemy and national traitors, not patriot.
‘We want to see what steps have been taken against the perpetrators,’ the court said.
The court, citing several reports published in four newspapers between November 19 and 21, said that a huge amount of money was laundered to foreign countries, including Malaysia, Singapore and Canada.
The court said that it needed to know about the perpetrators and also about what amounts were laundered abroad and how.
From now on, the court directed, no agent can transact money to the
foreign countries except through the Bangladesh Bank channel.
‘We cannot allow anyone to siphon money abroad,’ the court asserted.
The deposits by Bangladeshi citizens in Swiss banks stood at Tk 5,392 crore or 603.02 million Swiss francs in 2019, according to Swiss National Bank data released on June 25, 2020.
The Bangladeshi deposits in the year, however, slightly fell — by around 2.30 per cent — compared with those of 617.72 million Swiss francs in 2018.
The deposits had increased by 28.33 per cent in 2018 from those of 481.32 million Swiss francs in the previous year.
The Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based watchdog, in its 2019 report said that a total of $81.74 billion was siphoned from Bangladesh between 2006 and 2016.
According to Swiss National Bank data, the deposits by Bangladeshi citizens were 235.59 million Swiss francs in 2010 which declined to 152.31 million in 2011 and again increased, to 228.86 million, in 2012.
The deposits went up to 371.88 million in 2013, to 506.05 million in 2014 and reached the highest-ever amount of 661.96 million Swiss francs in 2015.
On November 18, replying to a question from a reporter at a discussion at the Dhaka Reporters Unity about the siphoning of money to foreign countries, including Canada, the foreign minister said that there were 28 money laundering cases in this connection.
‘I thought many of them might be politicians. But there were only a handful of them and some were RMG factory owners while most of them were families of government officials,’ he said.
ACC chairman Iqbal Mahmood on November 19 told New Age that the commission would take action against those public servants who were involved in money laundering, if the foreign ministry would provide necessary information.
‘I saw on television that the foreign minister at a press conference said that a good number of public servants and their families had siphoned money abroad,’ Iqbal said, adding that it was ACC’s duty to take action against such public servants.
He said that the commission had already sent a letter to the foreign ministry seeking the names of those people who obtained foreign citizenship in investment quota.
The foreign minister in a recent interview to an English-language daily said that the Canadian government did not disclose information in this regard.
‘If you want to get information about a particular house, you will have to visit websites to find out about it. The Canadian government will not give any information,’ he added.
If any American citizen, the minister went on, deposits money in any bank in Bangladesh, this information can be disclosed because the Bangladesh government has signed an agreement to this effect.
As per the agreement, if any American citizen invests or deposits money in Bangladesh, then the Bangladesh Bank will inform the US Internal Revenue Service, he said, adding that as per US rules, a citizen would have to pay tax if they deposit over $10,000 in the Bangladesh Bank.
He said that as Bangladesh had signed this agreement its government is transparent on the matter.
But the situation is different with other North American countries, he added.
There is little opportunity to get information if any Bangladeshi citizen deposits money in those countries, he said.
Khurshid Alam Khan appeared for ACC and deputy attorney Amin Uddin Manik for the state.
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