Money laundering poses a significant obstacle to the economic development of Bangladesh. Major methods of money laundering include over and under-invoicing, hundi, and currency exchange. Various initiatives have been implemented to mitigate the prevalence of hundi, such as offering incentives to encourage the use of formal banking channels for foreign currency transactions. However, the effectiveness of bringing in remittance through banking channels has come under scrutiny following a recent incident.
According to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), remittances in the form of cash and foreign currency brought into Dhaka's Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport by expatriate workers and air passengers are intended to be deposited in the national reserve through official banking channels. However, unscrupulous bankers exploit these funds for personal gain, diverting them into the black market where they are eventually laundered abroad, thereby undermining the country's economic stability.
The ACC has identified and monitored such criminal activities originating from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, estimating that approximately TK 1 billion worth of foreign exchange is diverted away from the state reserve through this channel.
Recently, the ACC secretary reported that a day-long operation was conducted at the airport, revealing a network of banks and currency exchangers involved in the illicit trade of foreign currency. These entities acquire foreign currency from inbound passengers using counterfeit or unsigned vouchers, but didn't register these transactions in their official accounts. Consequently, these funds are not included in the central reserve.
Despite various efforts to curb money laundering, it remains pervasive. According to a 2021 report by the United States-based organisation Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a staggering Tk. 4,617.45 billion has been smuggled out of the country over the past six years, averaging Tk. 770 billion annually. New methods of money laundering continue to emerge, including the abuse of Mobile Financial Services (MFS) and digital banking platforms. Moreover, illegal online activities such as gambling, gaming, betting, forex trading, and cryptocurrency transactions are being used for money laundering purposes. Bangladeshi funds are also being stashed in offshore accounts and invested in real estate businesses abroad, as evidenced by numerous mentions of Bangladeshi money launderers in documents like the Panama Papers, Paradise Papers, and Pandora Papers.
Urgent and stringent measures are imperative to combat money laundering and ensure sustainable development. The ACC should intensify its operations, and other relevant agencies responsible for combating money laundering must enhance their proactive efforts to curb money laundering through various channels.
Department of English
University of Dhaka
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