Criticising the finance minister over his failure to check money laundering, Jatiya Party lawmaker Pir Fazlur Rahman said the finance minister knows exactly who siphon off money from Bangladesh.
"The finance minister wanted the list of money launderers from the members of parliament. But how will lawmakers give him that? He is in charge of the Ministry of Finance, so he should give us the list," the lawmaker told the House Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal yesterday said money laundering hurts him as it hurts others.
"Some greedy people are laundering money abroad and we are taking initiatives to amend laws to identify them," he told reporters after a meeting of the cabinet committee on public procurement on Wednesday.
In parliament, the Jatiya Party MP said every audit report contains how irregularities and corruption have taken place in the financial institutions. Fazlur Rahman suggested that Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal get the money launderers' information from there.
"The CAG's [The Comptroller and Auditor General of Bangladesh] audit report for the last four years says Tk31,000 crore has been laundered. The banking sector in the last four years has had so many frauds that it contributed to 52% of the total irregularities in public spending. The irregularities in the last nine years, according to the CAG report, have increased 16 times," said the lawmaker.
Citing the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Bangladesh Bank, he said there is evidence of 1,024 money laundering incidents in the last five years.
"Then why does the finance minister not get the information?" he said.
"Money is being siphoned off from Bangladesh but the finance minister cannot stop it. The stock market gets looted, the finance minister cannot find it.
"After laundering thousands of crores of taka, PK Halder rests on foreign soil as his girlfriends land in jail in Bangladesh. We did not want to see this. We wanted measures so that PK Halders could not flee from Bangladesh," said Fazlur.
The Jatiya Party lawmaker also criticised the finance minister for not being present in parliament during the budget discussion.
Health minister also faces criticisms
Criticising the health minister's remarks that "money from other sectors was laundered to Canada, not health", Fazlur said, "The ACC has identified 11 areas of corruption in the health ministry. Health minister, please catch the corrupt instead of defending the grafts."
"Let our conscience be awakened at least during this pandemic. Catch the corrupt and ensure the treatment of the people."
Citing several reports, he said there was at least Tk1,000 crore corruption in medical equipment purchase in the 2017-18 fiscal year.
"We do not want to hear about talks on vaccine purchase, rather we want the immunisation campaign ensured," he said.
During the budget discussion, BNP lawmaker Mosharraf Hossain criticised making an additional secretary official officer on special duty (OSD) as she disclosed the vaccine rate to the media.
"Covid-19 vaccines are being purchased with the taxes of the people, and they have the right to know the price. It is unfortunate that an officer was made OSD just for this," he said.
Regarding the proposed budget, he said the budget deficit amounted to Tk2.14 lakh crore, but there was no clear explanation as to where the deficit finance would come from.
He also criticised the government's dependency on a single source for Covid-19 vaccine. After inoculating the pupils, he demanded the reopening of the educational institutions as soon as possible.
Referring to the rape and murder attempt of actress Pori Moni at Dhaka Boat Club, BNP MP Harunur Rashid demanded action against the club authorities.
"Action has to be taken against the boat club. There are talks that the club has been established by occupying the bank of Turag river."
Money laundering hurts me too: Finance minister
Mustafa Kamal 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.
There are launderers across the world, he said.
He also said he believes no one would launder money abroad if there are investment opportunities here and if people think their investments would yield profits.
Kamal said foreign transactions used to be done manually in the past, but now it is a digital system.
When asked about the Tk6,351 crore rise in default loans in the banking sector despite giving the business community various facilities during the pandemic, he said such loans had not increased.
He said he would look into how the Bangladesh Bank had done the calculation and would then answer the question.
The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics has not yet released the final figure of GDP growth for the fiscal 2019-20. Kamal said everything is being delayed now as the situation is not normal and this must be accepted.
He said the planning minister would reveal the information in due course of time.
The minister further said Bangladesh would get an extra return from loans given to Sri Lanka.
"The main reason for giving this loan is to build ties with them. Why should we not give loans if we get a competitive return?"