Despite a ban on gambling, many Bangladeshis are playing various online gambling games such as Teen Patti Gold through which money is being laundered from their gaming accounts.
The Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) found that 20 Bangladeshi nationals opened accounts with Maltese-registered online gaming companies. They deposited around Tk33 crore and withdrew more than Tk22 crore from those accounts in the last fiscal year.
The disclosure came in the annual report of the BFIU for 2019-20 published on Thursday.
The BFIU found that gamblers deposited to and withdrew funds from gaming accounts through services such as Neteller, Skrill and Moneybookers. In some cases, the gamblers were also maintaining bank accounts in Bangladesh.
Those online gaming companies had closed the accounts of 20 Bangladeshi nationals due to lack of information on source of funds and high velocity deposits by those individuals, according to the report.
The BFIU also found that mobile financial service accounts are being used for online gambling and money laundering.
An online gambling app Teen Patti Gold – developed by a game developer company based in Bengaluru, India – has gained a notable level of popularity in Bangladesh, the report added.
Many individuals and organisations have sprung up to buy and sell the "chips" (virtual coins used for Teen Patti gambling). These buy/sell transactions are mainly done through MFS accounts and are marketed through various social media in Bangladesh.
Android and IOS platform-based mobile phone users of all ages including school, college and university-level students are becoming addicted to this virtual gambling day by day, reads the report.
After analysing transactions from 1 January to 25 September 2020, the BFIU found that around Tk2 lakh have been laundered through gambling using the Teen Patti Gold app. The gamblers laundered the money in smaller amounts such as Tk60, Tk75, Tk80, Tk150 and Tk330 using mobile financial services.
The average amount of cash-in and cash-out was Tk239, and the highest cash-out was Tk10,000.
How do gamblers load up their gambling accounts?
This takes the form of digital hawala/hundi in most cases. A person who wants to gamble online sets up an account with Neteller, Skrill or one of the other companies or gets someone to do it for him or her.
Then they get in touch with someone who has dollars, say a freelancer who works for a foreign client. He pays in local currency to the freelancer, who then asks his client to pay part of his service fees into a Neteller or Skrill account which belongs to the gambler.
This is how a digital/e-money wallet is loaded and used to make payments for gambling. There are agents/intermediaries who collect money from different would-be gamblers/gamers often through Bkash and use multiple individuals to funnel money into these e-money accounts.
Furthermore, a search on Facebook found that several websites such as PaymentBD.com advertises loading up Neteller, Skrill and other similar e-wallet accounts. As per PaymentBD.com, they can load US dollars in a Neteller account for which the minimum amount has to be $500.
If someone wants to load US dollars in his/her Neteller account, they have to pay Tk105 per US dollar including service charge. Here Tk5 is the service charge and Tk100 is price per US dollar.
In September 2019, RAB raided at least five clubs in Dhaka city, and arrested 182 people in connection with running "casinos", gambling, and drug abuse, and sealed off at least two clubs. Later in October, RAB arrested online casino kingpin Salim Prodhan.