The Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has called for a deeper and wider investigation into cases of money laundering as well as to ensure exemplary punishment for those involved.
Terming the issue as only the "tip of the iceberg", the TIB lauded the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate (CIID) for "exposing 33 garment factories and buying houses involved in smuggling at least Tk821 crore in the last six years under the guise of export-import trade," in a statement on Tuesday (5 September).
"The CIID's success in investigating money laundering cases deserves to be lauded," TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said in the statement.
"The case proves that relevant authorities have the ability to identify and prevent money laundering cases. However, the incident of smuggling of Tk821 crore is actually just the tip of the iceberg," Iftekharuzzaman said.
According to the 2018 data of Global Financial Integrity (GFI), an average of $7.53 billion is laundered from Bangladesh every year through international trade. If updated, the amount of money laundered from the country through mis-invoicing in international trade alone would be at least one trillion dollars a year, reads the statement.
"However, the government had to borrow $4.7 billion from the IMF for three and a half years to deal with the foreign exchange crisis, which has to be repaid with interest. There is no way to deny that, if money laundering was controlled, Bangladesh would not have had to approach the IMF, so there would not have been a reserve crisis in the country," it added.
"We would like to remind the institutions responsible for prevention and control of money laundering to be proactive in taking effective measures while respecting public interest," said the TIB.
Calling for exemplary action against those involved in trade-based money laundering, Iftekharuzzaman said, "It is important for international trade organisations and their members to be proactive in practising good conduct. Exemplary punishment should be meted out with courage and firmness in the law, regardless of identity and position, above all compassion or fear. If the concerned institutions can properly fulfil the assigned responsibilities, it is possible to retrieve the laundered money from abroad in addition to the penalties applicable for smuggling.
"If the proper enforcement of laws and institutional failures continue, such heinous crimes will become more widespread."
The TIB executive director also said, "As investigation of various crimes related to money laundering has been removed from the Anti-Corruption Commission's [ACC] jurisdiction, it has not been able to play its expected role."
"I am strongly demanding to restore the powers of the ACC by amending the Money laundering Prevention Rules, 2019," he further said.