4:32 pm - Tuesday September 23, 8453

BD needs ‘legal instrument to have siphoned off money back’  

Though there is a growing trend of siphoning off money abroad, the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) is unable to take any concrete step to recover the laundered money deposited in the Swiss Bank by Bangladeshis due to lack of legal instrument, reports UNB.

“We (Bangladesh) don’t have any agreement with the Swiss authorities in this regard. If an agreement is signed with the Central Bank of the Swiss government (Swiss National Bank), we’ll be able to take measures to bring the stolen money back,” ACC commissioner M Shahabuddin told UNB.

money backHe said the ACC has already signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Bangladesh Bank to deal with the money-laundering issue.

“Bangladesh Bank should create a legal base by signing an agreement with the Swiss National Bank so that the laundered money could be recovered,” the ACC commissioner said.

According to the latest data of the Swiss National Bank, the deposits made by Bangladesh citizens at various Swiss banks have risen by 62 percent year-on-year in 2013. The deposits stood at Tk 3,236 crore (372 million Swiss franc) at the end of 2013 calendar year while it was Tk 1,991 crore in 2012.

Businesspeople feel comfort to keep their money in foreign banks due to lack of safety while bureaucrats and politicians who amass money illegally siphon it off fearing that any political changeover or takeover by a regime like the 2006-07 army-backed caretaker administration would clamp down on them.

Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of the Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), said Bangladesh as a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) can collect information on stolen assets from other signatories to the UNCAC.

“As per the deal, every party is bound to help other signatory countries if they seek information over money laundering. The Swiss National Bank had never disclosed information in the past, but now it reveals information due to a UN treaty,” he said.

Switzerland also a signatory to the UNCAC as it ratified the accord on September 24, 2009.

According to the UNCAC Article 52 (Chapter 5), each State Party shall consider taking measures as may be necessary to permit its competent authorities to share that information with the competent authorities in other States Parties when necessary to investigate, claim and recover proceeds of offences established in accordance with this Convention.

Iftekharuzzaman said Bangladesh has not yet signed any agreement with Switzerland on information sharing about money laundering issue, but it may sign an agreement with the Swiss authorities so that it can collect information lawfully without any impediment.

Besides, he said, if the four institutions – the Bangladesh Bank, the ACC, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) and the Attorney General’s Office — work together, it is possible to bring the laundered money back home from abroad.

“But, the institutions must take measures proactively to recover the stolen asset. The Anti-Money Laundering Unit and the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Bangladesh Bank should send the mutual legal assistance requests (MLARs) to the foreign authorities through the Attorney General’s Office seeking information on stolen money,” the TIB executive director said.