US uses sanction as a tool in fighting corruption: Nephew

Richard Nephew

The US state department's coordinator for global anti-corruption efforts Richard Nephew has said the US uses sanctions as a tool for curbing corruption. 

Foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen on Monday told journalists that Nephew made the remark while meeting him at the Foreign Service Academy in the capital Dhaka.

Richard Nephew held a meeting with a delegation of civil society on Monday, the second day of his visit in Bangladesh. Later he met the foreign secretary.

Asked about the meeting, the foreign secretary told journalists that the ministry explained to the US delegation how it deals with corruption issues. Bangladesh also informed the US delegation on how it maintains its obligations to international conventions relating to corruption.

Also, the US delegation has been apprised of how the ministry works in coordination with the Anti-Corruption Commission and Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU).

Meanwhile, the US delegation led by Nephew has invited Bangladesh to attend the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention Against Corruption in Atlanta in December this year. The US will seek fresh commitment from countries on combating corruption during the convention.

“Bangladesh is involved with several international initiatives relating to curbing corruption. We told them that we have mutual legal assistance with different countries in fighting corruption but we don’t get the necessary response from all countries in this regard. For example we didn’t get assistance from Switzerland recently. We want all to cooperate in this issue,” Masud Bin Momen said.

Asked if any concern was raised at the meeting over money laundering from Bangladesh, the foreign secretary said the issue was discussed as money laundering is a part of corruption.

In reply to a question that if Bangladesh sought assistance regarding recovering laundered money from the US, the foreign secretary said the focus should be on preventing further money laundering and bringing back the laundered money is a subsequent step. Also, all the money sent abroad may not be of illegitimate origin but it should be reviewed as to how the money was funneled.  

When asked about a media report that the US is going to impose sections on 11 Bangladeshi individuals, the foreign secretary said there was no discussion on this specific issue. However, as Richard Nephew himself was involved with sanction-related activities, he said the sanction is a tool to curb corruption. But the US delegation did not discuss anything on sanction on any specific country or individual.

Meeting with civil society

Richard Nephew asked the civil society members as to how can anti-corruption activities be intensified and money laundering be curbed. He also inquired about the relevant laws, what role can civil society play in curbing corruption and how effective is the practice of accountability in the existing democratic system.

Center for Policy Dialogue’s (CPD) distinguished fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya told Prothom Alo, “I’ve told the meeting that there is an anti-corruption organisation here but it is not effective. There are laws to curb corruption which don’t get implemented. Also, the voice of the general people is thin. The anti-corruption mechanism is weak due to absence of overall democratic accountability.  On the other hand, the United States has many laws and regulations on anti-corruption, anti-tax evasion and money laundering as a member of the OECD. But we do not see them being effective in case of money laundering from Bangladesh. This makes us suspect that the US economy is covertly benefiting from money laundering.”