Suspicious foreign transactions in three banks of Bangladesh
Suspicious foreign transactions in three banks of BangladeshPhoto courtesy: ICIJ

Suspicious foreign transactions have been made through three banks in Bangladesh.

The banks are state-owned Rupali Bank and the private sector Islami Bank Bangladesh (IBBL) and Social Islami Bank (SIBL). Some funds were sent out of the country through Rupali Bank while two other banks received money here. The amount of questionable funds received is quite higher than that sent by the banks.

Khandaker Ibrahim Khaled, former deputy governor of Bangladesh Bank, told Prothom Alo that what has been found is just a token amount. The issue of money laundering from Bangladesh is acknowledged worldwide today.

In total, $832,937 (Tk 70.8 million) was transacted through the banks. All transactions were made through US-based Standard Chartered and Bank of New York Melan Corporation between 2014 and 2016.

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The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a platform of the investigative journalists, has leaked the information about Bangladesh in a document called 'Finsen Files'. The ICIJ leaked the information taken from the Financial Crime Enforcement Network (Finsen), US finance ministry’s intelligence wing.

Khandaker Ibrahim Khaled, former deputy governor of Bangladesh Bank, told Prothom Alo that what has been found is just a token amount. The issue of money laundering from Bangladesh is acknowledged worldwide today.

Banks in all countries have provision to report suspicious transactions in case of sudden large amount of transactions. Apart from this, if there is any doubt among the bank officials about any transaction, they are supposed to report the matter. If necessary, the regulatory agencies investigate the issue. So suspicious transactions do not necessarily mean that the money was laundered.

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The Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) monitors the suspicious transactions in the country. BFIU chief Abu Hena Mohammad Razi Hasan told Prothom Alo on Sunday last: “We’ll look into the matter. If anything illegal is found, the concerned agency will be informed to take action.”

ICIJ has flagged a total of eight transactions regarding Bangladeshi banks as suspicious. Of this, $336,133 was received by Islami Bank from Australia and New Zealand Banking (ANZ) on 23 August and 1 September 2016.

Mahbub-ul-Alam, managing director and CEO of the Islami Bank, said, “It was revenue from export. The receiving party is a well-known establishment in the country.”

The export revenue of GMS Group's Elham Sourcing was received in the Islami Bank. Its Australian buyer Culture King Richband sent the money.

Golam Mostafa, managing director of GMS Group, said, “All our export credentials and information about revenues are reported to Bangladesh Bank. All the money is export revenue.”

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Besides, $1,600 was transacted through Social Islami Bank from Latvian Regional Investment Bank on 14 April 2014.

Quazi Osman Ali, managing director and CEO of the bank, said, "We're trying to find out the facts."

State-owned Rupali Bank sent $495,204 to Deutsche Bank on 15 and 22 September in 2016. Three of the transactions were settled through Bank of New York Melan Corporation and five transactions were completed through the Standard Chartered Bank.

"We’ll investigate the matter," said Obayed Ullah Al Masud, managing director of Rupali Bank.