Dubious transactions on the rise

Shanaullah Sakib | Update:

Bangladesh BankCertain unusual transactions that create suspicions have increased in the countrys financial system in recent times, says an annual report of Bangladesh Banks financial intelligence unit (BFIU).

The allegations that corruption, illegal money transfer, and loan forgery and scams have increased over the past several years, have now been reflected in this official report.

The report referred to as many as 2,357 dubious transactions in 2016-17 financial year. The number of such transactions was 1,687 the previous year.

The financial intelligence unit in 2016-17 fiscal year investigated only 121 transactions, which consist only five per cent of the suspicious transactions, and asked the authorities concerned to take actions.

Stakeholders say most of the crimes relating to dubious transactions remained in the dark as they are not properly investigated.

Former Bangladesh Bank deputy governor Ibrahim Khaled said financial transactions are increasing and so is corruption.

“Its very little if only five per cent of the complaints are investigated. It can’t depict the whole picture,” Ibrahim Khaled told Prothom Alo.

The unit has just started functioning recently and it lacks manpower and that is not trained either, he said and insisted that as such a separate unit has been launched as part of international practice, it has to be strengthened with manpower and necessary training facilities.

Ibrahim Khaled further observed that the activities of the unit might be hampered due to pampering of bank owners by the government.

The law relating to money laundering deals with the money that is earned through bribery and other forms of corruption, human trafficking, smuggling, financing for militancy or terrorism, making fake currency notes, and any such illegal transactions.

If any suspicious transaction is made through banks and other financial institutions, the authorities are supposed to report to the central banks financial intelligence unit. Such reports are called suspicious transaction reports (STRs). Afterwards, the unit investigates into the matter further.

“We consider every report of the suspicious transaction. We’ve sent five per cent of such reports to the authorities concerned after investigation,” said the unit chief and central bank’s deputy governor, Abu Hena Mohammad Raji Hassan.

“Other countries investigate only 2-3 per cent such types of accusations. We’re investigating more than any other nation does,” he claimed.

According to the units annual report, the government agency responsible for investigating money laundering and suspicious transactions prepared a total of 69 reports of corruption, 47 of fraudulence, 11 of embezzlement of money and 11 other reports of financing terrorism or militancy in the 2016-17 fiscal.

The agency also froze some 20 bank accounts for financing terrorism and militancy, according to the annual report.

As stated in the annual report, suspicious transaction of Tk 2.5 billion was carried out during January and February of 2017 when Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL) saw a changeover in its ownership.

Of the suspicious transactions, a total of 1,633 complaints came through the country’s banks, 644 from mobile banking institutions in allocating remittance, 42 by other financial institutions and 8 through stock market related organisations.

The number of money laundering complaints has also increased. A total of 301 such complaints were lodged in 2016-17 as against 209 in 2015-16. Of the complaints, 109 came from the police, 71 from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), 14 from the media houses and 11 from individuals and 96 from other sources.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam and Imam Hossain.

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