Bangladeshi individuals deposited 32.234 million Swiss francs (CHF) or Tk302 crore in Swiss banks in 2020, a 62.6% increase compared to the previous year.
The growth rate of deposits by Bangladeshi individuals was the highest among South Asian countries, followed by Sri Lankans, according to the Swiss National Bank that released its annual banking statistics on Thursday.
Sri Lankan individuals deposited 42.39 million CHF in 2020, a 17.73% increase compared to the 2019 figure. Deposits by Pakistanis also saw an increase of 10.14% to 382.97 million CHF.
Meanwhile, Bhutan, Maldives, Afghanistan, Nepal, and India had an 82%, 36%, 35%, 14% and 8% decline in deposits by their citizens to Swiss banks.
However, in terms of volume, India and Pakistan are the two countries that have the highest Swiss banks' liabilities on an individual level.
Dr Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute (PRI), said Swiss banks were among the many options people, who were laundering money, could stash it abroad.
"Those, who used to deposit their illegal money on an individual level, are not depositing their money in Swiss banks, rather they are investing their money mostly in the real estate."
Bangladesh has nothing to do with the rise and fall in deposits in Swiss banks. The government should instead focus on the gross money transfer, Ahsan said.
On the increase in customer deposits, he said that might happen for several reasons, for example trade related activities with Europe. Even banking efficiency is higher in Swiss banks, which attracts individuals to park more money in these banks.
"It requires much more information to make any appropriate explanation of what the real scenario is. It shouldn't be taken negatively without any proper inspection of the matter," he said.
If the Bangladesh government really wants to have this information, it may push for information regarding customer deposits on an individual level from Swiss banks, Ahsan added.
Overall deposits from Bangladesh stood at Tk5,274cr
Deposits of Bangladeshi individuals and enterprises in Swiss banks in 2020 amounted to 562.9 million CHF or Tk5,274.33 crore, a 6.65% decline compared to the 2019 figure.
According to the report, its data of "total liabilities" of Swiss banks to Bangladeshis includes all types of funds, including deposits from individuals, banks and other enterprises.
The report explained that the deposits as "liabilities" of Swiss banks are the official figures provided to the SNB by the Swiss banks. The figures do not indicate anything about the much-talked-about illicit money, if any, parked by Bangladeshis there.
In 1996, Swiss banks' liabilities to Bangladeshi individuals were nearly 26 million CHF, while it was 12.41 million to banks. Now, the amount from banks skyrocketed to 530.63 million CHF, and the amount from individuals slightly increased to 32 million CHF, indicating that individuals are keeping less money in Swiss banks.
Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said on Wednesday that, "Some greedy people are laundering money abroad and we are taking initiatives to amend laws to identify them."
He said it would be easy to take action against launderers if they could be identified first and the reasons for committing such crimes could be known.
The minister also said he believed no one would launder money if there were investment opportunities here in Bangladesh and if people thought investments would yield profits.
Deposits from India in Swiss banks highest in South Asia
Bangladesh has come third in South Asia after India and Pakistan in terms of depositing money in Swiss banks in 2020.
Indian money in the banks rose significantly by 186.2% to 2.55 billion CHF in 2020.
With an increase of 78.61%, deposits by Pakistani citizens stood at 642.28 million CHF.
The lowest amount deposited was 0.26 million CHF, an 81.17% decline from the previous year, from Bhutan, followed by the Maldives.