Information has been gathered on 752 cases filed on money laundering charges over the past 20 years in the country. Prothom Alo has reviewed documents of over 200 of these cases. It was observed that 17 types of crimes featured more prominently among cases under the money laundering act. Around 30 per cent of the cases involved misappropriating funds from banks and other financial institutions by fraudulent means. And 22 per cent of the cases were about amassing wealth through bribes and corruption, 14 per cent about making money by cheating others, and 13 per cent about money laundering under the cover of imports and experts. Another 21 per cent of the cases involved MLM, e-commerce, hundi (informal and illegal money transfer) and other charges.

67 per cent accused are businessmen and bankers

Taking advantage of the lack of monitoring by the concerned government authorities, a certain section of businessmen allegedly filch funds by creating 'companies' and taking loans from banks and other financial institutions in connivance with certain unscrupulous officials of these institutions. According to reports of six investigating agencies including the Anti-Corruption Commission and CID, money is also siphoned out of the country using false documents purportedly for import and export.

Information has been gathered on 752 cases filed on money laundering charges over the past 20 years in the country. Prothom Alo has reviewed documents of over 200 of these cases. It was observed that 17 types of crimes featured more prominently among cases under the money laundering act. Around 30 per cent of the cases involved misappropriating funds from banks and other financial institutions by fraudulent means. And 22 per cent of the cases were about amassing wealth through bribes and corruption, 14 per cent about making money by cheating others, and 13 per cent about money laundering under the cover of imports and experts. Another 21 per cent of the cases involved MLM, e-commerce, hundi (informal and illegal money transfer) and other charges.

67 per cent accused are businessmen and bankers

Taking advantage of the lack of monitoring by the concerned government authorities, a certain section of businessmen allegedly filch funds by creating spurious companies and taking loans from banks and other financial institutions in connivance with certain unscrupulous officials of these institutions. According to reports of six investigating agencies including the Anti-Corruption Commission and CID, money is also siphoned out of the country using false documents purportedly for import and export.

In 506 of 752 money laundering cases, the accused include businessmen, bankers and persons of other professions. According to Prothom Alo investigations, alongside businessmen, 142 officials of various financial institutions including four state-owned banks and 23 private banks have been accused in such cases. They include 5 chairmen, 5 managing directors, 4 general managers, 6 deputy general managers, 17 senior vice presidents, 6 vice presidents, 8 assistant vice presidents of various financial institutions including banks.

The observation of the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) also is that state banks are among the most risk-prone sector for money laundering in Bangladesh. Most fraud takes place in state-owned banks including Sonali Bank and BASIC Bank as well as others.

Former president of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), Abul Kasem Khan, told Prothom Alo that if there was effective monitoring in place for the finance sector including banks, insurance and e-commerce, such incidents of fund misappropriation and money laundering could not take place one after the other. If the dishonest businessmen and others involved in money laundering were given exemplary punishment, other would be scared. But that is not being done.

A case was filed in 2015 against the owner of Remax Footwear, Abdul Aziz, for taking a Tk 4.85 billion (Tk 485 crore) loan from the Imamganj branch of Janata Bank in Old Dhaka and illegally sending it out of the country. Thirteen officials, including the general manager of Janata Bank at the time, Kazi Rais Uddin, were accused of aiding and abetting him in the laundering the money. A number of ruling party leaders were on the board of the bank at the time that the loan was approved. The matter is still under investigation.

Similarly, 12 cases under the money laundering act were filed in 2013 against Khwaja Soleman Anwar Chowdhury of Bismillah Group along with a few others for misappropriating Tk 12 billion (Tk 1200 crore) from four banks, including Janata Bank, on the pretext of exports. In these cases, charges have been brought against 13 persons of Bismillah Group and 40 officials of five banks including Janata Bank. In 2018, nine persons including Khwaja Soleman and two officials of Janata Bank, were sentenced in one case.

In 2018, money laundering cases were brought against eight top officials of AB Bank including its former chairman M Wahidul Huq. The charge sheet accused them of transferring funds of Tk 1.65 billion (Tk 165 crore) illegally to Dubai. Presently, deposition of the witnesses is underway.

Former chairman of the Association of bankers, Bangladesh (ABB), Anis A Khan, speaking to Prothom Alo said, "Many bank officers compromise and resort to fraud, out of greed. This pleases dishonest businessmen. They lure these officials into their traps, borrow money from the banks, but never return these loans."

171 cases of bribery and corruption

Details have been obtained on 171 money laundering cases related to amassing wealth through bribes and corruption. The highest number of such cases is against government officials and employees. There are 137 government officials and employees accused in such cases, it has been learnt. Most of the accused (in 17 cases) are engineers. The accused also include three senior police officials, two prison officials and two judicial officers.

Persons involved in law and the judicial process as well as officials of anti-corruption agencies, feel that there are irregularities and corruption in almost all institutions of the government. Due to the lack of proper monitoring and effective measures by the government's anti-corruption agencies, a section of officers and employees resort to irregularities and corruption. The government has inadequate facilities to gather information concerning their ill-gotten wealth. Also, they cannot be brought under the law due to influential quarters of the state. That is why many officers and employees remain untouched over illegally amassing wealth.

In 2017, ACC filed a case against the superintendent of police (SP) of Faridpur at the time, Subhash Chandra Saha, for amassing wealth of Tk 80 million (Tk 8  crore). The allegations in the case stated that information had been found of Tk 28.1 million (Tk 2 crore 81 lakh) being kept in six fixed deposits (FDR) in an Old Dhaka branch of a bank, in his name and in the name of his wife Rina Chowdhury. They had 12 FDRs of Tk 53.3 million (Tk 5 crore 33 lakh) in the Jashore branch of the same bank. The case is in the investigation stage.

Two cases under the money laundering act were also filed four years ago against the Range Reserve Force commandant at the time, police super Mizanur Rahman. He earned Tk 35 million (Tk 3 crore 50 lakh) through corruption. Both the cases are being investigated.

On 24 June 2011 a case was filed against the additional chief engineer of the undivided Dhaka City Corporation, Abdus Salam, on charges of illegally amassing wealth of around Tk 55 million (Tk 5.5 crore) and laundering money overseas. The charges in the case said he had a deposit of around Tk 45 million (Tk 4.5 crore) in his bank account.

ACC filed a money laundering case in 2008 against physician Afzal Hossain, son of former caretaker government advisor Justice Fazlul Huq, for earning Tk 106.1 million (Tk 10 crore 61 lakh) by facilitating transfers for government officials. He was accused of depositing huge sums of money into various bank accounts while his father was the advisor in charge of the ministry for forests, land, law and justice. The case is at the stage of witness depositions.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, former chairman of ACC, Golam Rahman, said alongside government employees, senior officials of the government are also involved in corruption. In many government offices, there is open discussion on sharing the 'booty'. A chunk of this money goes to political leaders too. He feels one of the major causes of corruption in the country is the liaison between politicians and businesspersons. This is where most of corruption springs from. The entire system is wrong.

Top politicians of the opposition are accused

Information has been found on 35 money laundering cases against leaders of various political parties over the last two decades. The accused in these cases included 11 top politicians of different parties. They include seven from BNP, two from Awami League and one from Jatiya Party. There is also one independent member of parliament.

Three of the accused were also ministers of the BNP-led four-party alliance government. Four leaders of the party have been accused of money laundering and the remaining three of taking bribes and resorting to corruption to launder money. Elder son of BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia, Tarique Rahman, was sentenced in absentia. A case was filed against him in 2007. The cases against the other six were filed between 2011 and 2019.

The other six BNP leaders on the list of accused include former minister M Morshed Khan, Aminul Huq (deceased), Khandakar Musharraf Hossain, Mirza Abbas, Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury (deceased) and Hafiz Ibrahim.

Observers of various local and foreign anti-corruption agencies have said, there are very few cases filed under this law against those who have been in power over the last 20 years. While there are allegations of money laundering against many of the influential leaders of the incumbent ruling party, no investigation or inquiry is being conducted into these. The propensity is to bring about cases against the opposition political leaders. As a result, those using politics to launder money overseas, are not being brought to justice.

Two years ago a money laundering case was filed against the Pirojpur-1 ruling party member of parliament, AM Abdul Awal. A case with the same charges was brought against Bogura-2 Jatiya Party member of parliament Shariful Islam.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, former law minister Shafiq Ahmed said, "Many persons involved in state power are transferring money abroad. Those carrying out this crime are not being nabbed. This would not be so if everything was run in accordance to the law. It cannot be accepted that the money of the country is being sent out, but nothing is being done about it."

Many bankers and businessmen are involved in money laundering. Bangladesh Bank must be quite aware of these scams. If exemplary punishment is held regarding these cases, such crimes will decrease
Salehuddin Ahmed, former governor of Bangladesh Bank

Money laundering by MLM, e-commerce and question paper leakage

The allegations of cheating people through Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) are nothing new. The owners of Destiny-2000, UniPay2U, Jubok and other MLM companies have been charged and sentenced. Other than this, money is being taken from people and misappropriated in the name of Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society. Now e-commerce is one of the latest means of stealing huge amounts of people's money. In the same money, several rings have made massive sums of money by leaking out question papers of government and non-government job exams and also question papers of school, college, medical college and university admission exams.

Information has been found of 10 money laundering cases in the last 20 years regarding the misappropriation of money through MLM business. In these cases, allegations have been made of several rings amassing wealth of Tk 50 billion (Tk 5000 crore) in the name of MLM business.

In 2011 a case was filed against UniPay2U's Shahiduzzaman in charges of misappropriating Tk 2.50 billion (Tk 250 crore) by fraud, and money laundering. Six persons, including him, were sentenced in 2019 in this case.

Also, four money laundering cases were filed in Dhaka on allegations of making Tk 1.34 billion (Tk 134 crore) by leaking out question papers for university exams and government and non-government recruitment exams. A total of 37 persons were accused in these cases. They include physicians, bank officials and persons of other occupations.

Former governor of Bangladesh Bank, Salehuddin Ahmed, told Prothom Alo that many bankers and businessmen are involved in money laundering. Bangladesh Bank must be quite aware of these scams. If exemplary punishment is delivered regarding these cases, such crimes will decrease.