Money laundering increases ahead of election

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The amount of money laundered has increased dramatically ahead of the next national election, economists claim, citing the rise of the dollar’s price as evidence.

Price of the greenback is on the wane in the international market but it is seeing an upward trend in Bangladesh. Economists say this is common in the election year.

“Dollar price is rising in Bangladesh at a time when it is falling in the international market. There is certainly some big weakness behind it. There could be some things hidden behind import. This happens in the year of the election,” Policy Research Institute’s (PRI) Executive Director Ahsan H Mansur said.

A senior Bangladesh Bank official said: “The price of the dollar increased against take because of a rise in money laundering through hundi. Bangladeshi taka is being sent to Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and Canada. Many are laundering money to various countries by opening fake LCs or through over invoices.”

A huge amount of money is laundered out of the country every year using various means. The government has taken initiatives to seal the routes through which money is laundered. This time, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) is going to sign an agreement with the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU).

Apart from identifying and sealing the routes, this agreement aims at bringing back the money laundered in the guise of import and export. The BFIU officials have started working with Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), police and law enforcement agencies to recover the laundered money.

Economists say money laundering peaks during election years despite various restrictions. But will it be possible to stop it this time?

NBR Chairman Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan on Thursday warned the unscrupulous businessmen and money launderers. He spoke about identifying the huge sum of money laundered from Bangladesh and recovering them.

Mosharraf said: “The NBR is going to strike a deal next week with BFIU formed by the government to prevent financial irregularities or money laundering. We will work in coordination with the BFIU to stop money laundering and recover the laundered amount.

“Through this, we will investigate the incidents of money laundering. We will also maintain communication at the international level and exchange information. Once the laundered money has been identified, we will bring it back.

“At the same time, the places of delivery of goods will be brought under the Commerce Ministry’s restrictions. [We will do these things] to make the corrupt people understand they will have to pay if they get caught.”

Earlier, NBR’s former chairman Md Nojibur Rahman had said that they were investigating the Bangladeshis whose names had come up in Panama Papers and Paradise Papers. On November 21, he said detectives of the NBR’s central intelligence cell were working closely with BFIU about the Bangladeshis named in Panama Papers and Paradise Papers.

BFIU adviser Debaprasad Debnath said they had been working on money laundering for a long time. “We have already identified some incidents and several of them have been forwarded to the ACC for further investigation,” he said.

“Money is being laundered abroad. The central bank will investigate if it gets any information. The BFIU is working after getting information from other government agencies,” Debnath added.

The price of the dollar increased Tk4 in one year, according to Bangladesh Bank. On January 17, dollar’s price was Tk78.9 and a year later, the exchange rate has jumped to Tk82.84.

On Thursday, the Bangladesh Bank sold the dollar for Tk82.9. Other banks sold the greenback for Tk84. The price was high in curb market. In the open market, the dollar has been sold for Tk85.86.