Money laundering on the rise once again
The money laundering menace has returned with a shocking revelation. A syndicate comprising three companies allegedly involved in laundering over Tk 1,100 crore in the guise of import and export business has been busted. According to the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID), at least three confirmed business firms had laundered the huge sum in the name of importing capital machinery in a single year, making it the biggest scam in the country in recent times.
The investigators found that the goods these firms imported and exported were inconsistent with their stated purpose. However, it is encouraging to note that the CIID has filed a total of 15 cases against these firms - Agro BD, Henan & Anhui Agro and SB Exim Bangladesh - for money laundering by generating fake bills amounting to about Tk. 900 crore in the name of importing agricultural products and machineries.
The CIID also filed case against 13 people, including the owner of SB Exim Bangladesh for laundering money to the tune of Tk 92 crore in the name of exporting terracotta tiles.
In reality, the huge sum of 1, 100 crore may sound as a big amount but it is merely the tip of the iceberg of the total amount of money illegally siphoned off from the country every year. The fact that launderers were able to potentially avoid detection for so long and for such a large amount of money must also mean that there are loopholes in our regulatory system which is still being exploited. Needs be reminded, in 2014, the Washington based Global Financial Integrity had reported that illicit financial flows from the country had nearly tripled in only the last decade. Having largely dismissed or ignored many past allegations without conducting any investigations, we hope the latest scam serves as a proper lesson for the authorities.
Just when the country appears to have a smooth ride - to become a mid-income country - a grave offence, such as money laundering pulls back that progress. Particularly money laundering is perilously damaging to the country's economic development as the government finds it increasingly difficult to deliver sustainable growth in the face of diminishing resources for economic activities like building infrastructure.
To place the value of money laundered so far in perspective, we could have built three Padma Bridges with the money siphoned off in the last decade! On that note - the launderers are also enemies of the state. Policing to unearth the crimes should be intensified so that the origin of crime can be contained. The government, therefore, should ensure exemplary punishments to those once identified with money laundering and closely monitor the lifestyle of suspected people as well as to protect the country from huge economic loss.