FM censured in parliament for granting amnesty to launderers

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal places the proposed national budget for FY23 at the Jatiya Sangsad (parliament) on 9 June 2022

Lawmakers from ruling and opposition parties castigated the finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal on Sunday for allowing the launderers to bring their illegal money back to the country without any questioning.

Several parliamentarians claimed the corrupt people will be encouraged if it takes effect. They rather demanded legal action against the money launderers.

Speakers came up with these remarks on Sunday while addressing the supplementary budget discussion in parliament.

In the budget for 2022-23 fiscal, the government has retained a scope to bring back the laundered money to the country paying 7.5 per cent tax—an initiative that has sparked criticism across the country, fearing it will encourage unscrupulous people to siphon off money abroad in the future.

Opposing the initiative, Jatiya Party (JP) lawmaker Pir Fazlur Rahman said let measures be taken against the people who siphoned off the money in foreign countries. Otherwise, there was no need to enact a money laundering act.

Pir Fazlur said, “Those who siphoned off money abroad have received impunity, which is not acceptable. Finance minister should have worked to prevent the people from sending illegal money abroad during the pandemic period—where he failed utterly.”

“People are suspecting that a group of people is waiting to launder money. If the proposed bill is passed in the House, their goal will be achieved. If the launderers get impunity in this way, people will be encouraged to make money through illegal means,” the JP parliamentarian added.

He lamented people are struggling to earn money honestly on the one hand while launderers will bring their illegal money back paying taxes on the other. At the end, it will appear that the thieves will be the best taxpayers.

Jatiya Party MP Shamim Haider Patwary asked to reconsider the scope to whiten laundered money. He questioned, what will happen if someone siphons money from banks to other countries? Will a case be filed against them? Will a case be filed for money laundering? If a person brings back laundered money when there is an ongoing case against him, will the case be withdrawn?

He said there should be a provision in place that bars people who have specific allegations against them from using this opportunity to bring back laundered money.

He further said, this scope was provided in India too, but it didn’t receive the desired response.

Shamim Haider Patwary said, in the current fiscal year the government has borrowed Tk 110 billion more from banks then the approved amount in the budget. The government didn’t take any approval from the parliament about it. If the government keeps borrowing so much from banks, where will the people take loans from? Because of this, in spite of so much development the purchasing power of the people hasn’t increased.

Ruling party MP Pran Gopal Datta also asked to reconsider this proposal. He said it will have no positive impact on society. If the money launderers were honest people, they wouldn’t siphon money. The devil wouldn’t listen to the scripture; we have to keep that in mind.

Gono Forum MP Mukabbir Khan proposed to create a special tribunal and give maximum punishment to 12 of the biggest corrupts. He said, by doing this the corruption in the country will come down by 50 per cent. If corruption still doesn’t come down, he would resign from the parliament.

Mukabbir Khan said, the dishonest traders formed a syndicate and raised the price of edible oil and robbed billions of taka from the people. Lower level corrupts like clerks, drivers have been brought to book. But no one dares to go after the people who have looted hundreds of billions of taka.

Ruling party MP Shahiduzzaman Sarker said, the hiked prices and inflation are ‘imported’. The Russia-Ukraine war has caused this. The government has to increase assistance and not make the people curb their demands. It also has to adopt an easy monetary policy.

Ruling party MPs Abul Hasan Mahmud Ali, Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir and others took part in the discussion.