HAVEN FOR CRIMINALS?

by F R Chowdhury

 money_laundering_scheme

I made a “google search” to see if there is any international instrument specifically against money laundering. I could not find what I was looking for but I found a list of three international treaties that relate to similar things. They are –

  1. UN Convention against illicit traffic in Narcotics, Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988;
  2. UN Convention against Transitional Organised Crime, 2004; and
  3. UN Convention against Corruption, 2004.

The word money laundering means a process or system by which wealth accumulated through illegal means may be transformed into legal earning. There is no process by which a crime may be legitimised. Similarly there should be no process to turn black money into white money. Any such process is a crime and those involved are criminals as party to that crime. The acceptance of black money in our social and economic system is against the concept and spirit of all three UN conventions stated above.

The three conventions deal with various ways and means that criminals may resort to make black money. The collective purpose of these conventions is not to give any opportunity for the criminals to make black money. However, if the criminals still succeed to dodge all convention barriers and make money then it should be made difficult for them to utilise the same. The black money should be a curse for them. They must remain in fear of being caught and exposed. The world without black money would be a better place to live in. Hopefully we will get rid of all sorts of crimes and corruption that help accumulation of black money.

If I go to my bank to transfer some money, they would normally ask me for the reason and purpose. If it is a big sum of money, there would be inquiry/ investigation to its source, destination and purpose. This is how black money will be caught. It is the duty of the government of all sovereign states to cooperate on such measures to block all illicit transaction of black money. The world would be a better place to live when black money is not accepted anywhere.

Let us talk in brief how the black money is generated. It is known that because of corrupt politicians and other officials almost 50% of all project money disappears in developing countries. These are spent on bribing and kick-backs and the money normally go to various off-shore accounts. Misuse of power is another source of corruption. Joining hands with drug and narcotic dealers are a form of organised crime. Lately human trafficking has added a new avenue for the criminal gangs. War lords maintain their domain through illegal transaction of arms. Besides there are many other ways of making black money. All of that deprive the nation of their rightful revenue and development. All these corrupt practices are detrimental to human being in general. Nations should individually and collectively fight against such corruption and black money.

Of the three conventions discussed earlier, perhaps the most important one is the convention against corruption. It really encompasses the two other conventions. Criminals earning through drugs, human trafficking, prostitution, arms smuggling and all other illicit activities survive, operate and flourish by joining hands with corrupt officials. 90% of all problems would be solved if corruption could be brought down. United Nations Office against Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) is the custodian of all three conventions.

The Convention against corruption was adopted in 2004. Bangladesh became a Party to the convention in 2007 and soon thereafter set up the Anti-corruption Commission. The commission still cannot operate in a free and independent manner. I have not yet known about any successful prosecution of any corrupt official or politician. Another similar commission is the Human Rights Commission. We do not know the powers and functions of this Commission because we have not seen or heard about any of its activities. In fact the existence of the commission is to be questioned because there is no human right in Bangladesh.

Now we come back to the question of black money that we discussed earlier. For two successive years the finance minister has kept in his budget full provisions for turning black money into white money. It appears that if there was a chance, the finance minister would have invited Noriega of Panama and Charles Taylor of Liberia to come to Bangladesh with all their black money. This is state sponsored money laundering. This also expresses state support for crime and corruption. By so doing Bangladesh is acting against the fundamental principles of all three conventions that we talked about. By saying that those who invest in housing (purchasing flats) will not be questioned about the source of money, the finance minister makes the Anti-corruption Commission redundant.

Why is the finance minister acting like that? The primary reason is his failure to regulate and discipline the financial sector. It all started with share market. The criminals manipulated the market and then got away with Taka 150000 millions. The “Destiny” group took a total of Taka 41190 millions from banks over a period from 2006 to 2012. The “Bismillah” group similarly took Taka 11000 million during the period 2011-2012. The “Hallmark” group took Taka 45000 million from state-owned banks in 2012. The sponsors of “Basic Bank” took away Taka 45000 million during the period 2012-2013. None of it has been recovered or those responsible punished. Criminals got away with all that. Finally it is our Central Bank that lost Taka 8100 million of its reserve through cyber crime. The Governor even after knowing about it did not disclose to the Government until it was known from the media. What a shame! In last 7 years a total of over Taka 300000 million of public money has disappeared. Another alarming figure is that Taka 320000 millions are paid every year to foreign workers. India receives through its overseas workers the fifth highest remittance of $3716 millions from Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh there is no rule of law. There is no public security as law and order situation has gone to a stage that diplomats at Dhaka are worried about. Nobody is ready to invest a single penny in the country. If there is any scope they send it all abroad. The machine that the finance minister has installed to turn black money into white money cannot salvage the situation. It has almost gone to “beyond repair” stage.

To suppress the disastrous situation and to perpetuate their power, the Government has resorted to same measures that dictators do. In the name of crime against humanity they have systematically eliminated a number of potential political challengers. I call it judicial killing. There are others who are killed by so-called cross-fire. Most of the political opponents are in jail. Others are running between courts and lawyers to get advance bail. Mr. Salahuddin is rotting in Indian jail though he never travelled to India on his own. Thanks God, he has not disappeared like Ilyas Ali. Politicians opposed to government are kept too busy to save themselves from false charges levied against them and have no time to mobilise public opinion. Police and other law enforcement agencies are kept busy framing false charges against opposition politicians that they have no time to combat real crime. Journalist Mahmudur Rahman is still in Jail though he has not been sentenced by any court. On the slightest signal from the Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) hundreds of cases were lodged in a day against Mr. Mahfuz Anam of “Daily Star” from all corners of the country. Journalist Shafiq Rehman is the latest victim. These are enough for the journalists in the country to get the advance warning. That is the reason why papers and magazines published in Bangladesh are scared and reluctant to publish what we write. We finally seek the assistance of papers published from abroad. In this digital age the people in Bangladesh cannot be kept in dark. They get to know everything. One day there will be an outburst.

By installing the machine for turning black money into white money, this Government cannot make Bangladeshis as corrupt, criminal and terrorists. Bangladesh will not become a haven for criminals. We are simple, innocent and peace-loving. We oppose and condemn the Government move. We urge up on the people to stand firm against this move. Being a Party to the Convention we cannot act against the spirit of the Convention.

Insha-Allah, the freedom loving people of Bangladesh will succeed in restoring human rights, freedom of expression and democratic values with equality and justice. Amen.

London, 09-June-2016                                                                               <fazlu.chowdhury@btinternet.com>

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