The Financial Crime Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department is struggling to deal with money laundering cases in the face of what the authorities refer to as a lack of skilled manpower and specialisation.
A deputy inspector general, who previously worked for the Criminal Investigation Department, told The Business Standard that just a year back the CID was not on the priority list of choice of any policemen.
"Most police officials went for an inter-police departmental shift in their jobs a few months after joining the CID. It was such frequent joining and being transferred from the CID, which may be the cause behind the lack of skill and specialisation development in investigating money laundering cases," he added.
Nur Mohammad, former Inspector General of Police and currently a lawmaker from the ruling party, told TBS that money laundering cases were quite different from those filed for other crimes.
"There are many layers and issues involving money laundering. The investigators should gather a wide range of knowledge about all of them. The CID also should focus on skills development," he added.
From 2009 to 2020, the Financial Crime Unit settled a total of 412 cases and 1,455 enquiries. Besides, it was able to submit only 146 charge sheets against 282 such cases during this period.
Meanwhile, in the last three years, the CID froze, seized and confiscated over Tk700 crore worth of property and cash.
Of the total amount, over Tk400 crore worth of property has been frozen, more than Tk200 crore seized and above Tk76 crore confiscated by the Criminal Investigation Department.
The CID's Financial Crime Unit Special Superintendent of Police Md Mostafa Kamal told The Business Standard the unit had already finished most of the backlog of money laundering cases, but the rest have recently been filed.
"Most pending cases are from the years 2018, 2019 and 2020, and that is why we could not submit the charge sheets yet. Hopefully, within this year, we will be able to submit all pending reports before the court," added the police official.
However, several sources at the CID told TBS that the Financial Crime Unit was struggling with a shortage of skilled manpower while probing money laundering.
A highly placed source said at least 700 policemen had been transferred from the CID.
Md Mahbubur Rahman, Additional Inspector General of Police, who is also chief of the Criminal Investigation Department, told TBS recently that since taking charge of the CID, he had been building an energetic and enthusiastic workforce.
"We have already proved that the CID can make a difference and stand out in the entire police department. Though some cases are pending now, all reports will be submitted shortly," said the CID boss.
Tanvir Hassan Khan Zoha, a cyber-specialist and trainer for several units of Bangladesh Police, said investigating money laundering-related cases required a couple of attributes – being tech savvy and a knack for investigating financial crime.
"A combination of these attributes can equip a person in probing money laundering cases successfully," he added.
Most unsolved cases
Bangladesh Bank Money Heist
Criminals from at least six countries, including Bangladesh, have been found involved in the $81-million theft from the Bangladesh Bank account with the New York Fed five years ago.
Several high officials of the CID disclosed the findings five years after investigations into the heist.
A case filed by the central bank over the recovery of stolen money is now pending with the Southern District Court in New York.
Once that case in the US is settled, the charge sheet in the case in Bangladesh over the biggest-ever cyber heist in history would be submitted, said CID officials.
Confirming the development, CID chief Mahbubur Rahman told this correspondent that the probe into the BB reserve theft case was at the final stage, but the lawsuit over the recovery of the stolen money was still pending with the US court.
"We have engaged a law firm in the US. We met the firm officials and discussed the case with them a few days ago," according to the CID chief.
"They [the officials of the law firm] said it would not take too long and that the case should be disposed of quickly… We are now waiting for the settlement of the case."
"We will submit our charge sheet as soon as the case at the US court is settled," added Mahbubur.
On 4 February 2016, around $81 million was stolen from the central bank account with the New York Fed. On 15 March the same year, Bangladesh Bank Deputy Director (Accounts and Budgeting) Zobayer Bin Huda filed a case with Motijheel Police Station.
The CID claimed to have recovered $34 million from Sri Lanka and Philippines.
Casino-related money laundering cases
Among the total 12 casino-related money laundering cases, the CID has already submitted eight charge sheets while the remaining four are still under investigation.
Altogether 54 people have been arrested, Tk34.92 crore recovered, Tk405.48 crore frozen, Tk34.92 crore submitted to the state fund and Tk26.55 crore in cash recovered and then submitted to the state fund.
Apart from these, 90.83 kathas of land, two houses, 127 apartments, 14 private cars and six motorcycles have been identified.
Fake Covid-19 test certificate scam
A case was filed on 25 August 2020 against Regent Hospital Chairman and owner MD Shahed over issuing fake Covid-19 certificates and amassing illegal wealth under the Money Laundering Act.
A total of over Tk2 crore found in several bank accounts of the accused has been frozen. The case is still under investigation.
SB Group scandal
A money laundering case was filed in connection with the laundering of around Tk238 crore abroad in the guise of 'Terrakota tiles' export on 8 September 2019.
The CID found that the main accused, Salauddin Bablu, had forged export documents with the help of Bangladesh Commerce Bank officials and swindled Tk238 crores.
The CID informed TBS that it had detected the involvement of at least 13 officials in the scam. Among them were high officials of Bangladesh Commerce Bank. On the basis of the case, the CID froze 108 bank accounts of the main accused and confiscated six luxurious private cars, one flat worth Tk5 crore and 7- kathas of land. The charge sheet is yet to be filed over the laundering of Tk238 crore.
Magnetic Rice Coin Case
An organised crime group swindled crores of taka by targeting industrialists, affluent individuals and business giants through subjecting them to fake rice coin tricks. A case was filed on 28 September 2017 with Khilkhet Police station. During its investigation, the CID found around 50 bank accounts of the fraudsters and also froze Tk5 crore from their bank accounts. They have already seized Tk18,80000 and two private cars and a motorcycle. The case is still under investigation.
Meanwhile, charge sheets are yet to be submitted in cases against the airport gold smuggling racket, Chalantika Jubo Society, Chuadanga drug-related money laundering, gold smuggling in the guise of electronic items export, Fareast Islami Multi Cooperative Limited and many others.