Terror funding channels under scan

BB identifies one lakh mobile accounts behind financing arson and violence 
Mehedi-Hasan

The government has decided to bring the existing mobile banking services in the country under close watch to identify the sources of finance of the countrywide arson and violence.

Law enforcement agencies, banks, financial institutions and mobile phone operators have been directed to bring the popular on-the-go service under strict surveillance so that suspicious transactions can be traced and legal actions can be taken.

Under the existing mechanism, people do not need to produce any identification for sending or receiving money using the mobile banking services. This means anyone can send and receive money through private agents of the service that some banks provide.

On February 5, the PM asked all commercial banks and financial institutions to try and identify the source of finance behind the arson and political violence that have been going on for more than two months and has claimed over 80 lives.

According to sources, intelligence agencies have found that large sums are being transferred – both at home and from abroad – through banking channels, hundi (informal personal channels) and courier services to finance the arson and violence.

Intelligence sources said around 100,000 mobile banking accounts have been created using fake information over the last few months.

Following this information, the Bangladesh Bank has identified more than 98,000 mobile banking accounts who have been carrying out suspicious transactions.

The central bank has brought this matter to the attention of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) and the mobile operators. The authorities have also been asked to put the activities of these accounts on hold.

“On February 10, we had a meeting with the chief executive officers and the heads of money laundering prevention departments of all the banks,” Bangladesh Bank deputy Governor Abu Hena Md Razee Hassan told the Dhaka Tribune recently.

“The central bank has asked the banks to keep records of suspicious senders and receivers and file regular reports. The banks located in the risky areas will analyse past six months’ financial records of their clients and report on any suspicious activities,” said Hassan who is also the head the central bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit.

Meanwhile, officials from several district administrations have recently held a meeting with regional bankers, law enforcement agencies and mobile phone operators with the same purpose.

According to the minutes, that meeting was held in Rajshahi district administration office in early February. It discussed that identifying traditional banking transactions is easy, but tapping transactions made through the courier services or mobile banking services are not.

So, the regional area managers of the courier services and the mobile phone operators have been asked to keep records of the senders and receivers for any transaction above Tk20,000.

According to a September 2013 Bangladesh Bank circular, a P2P transaction between two mobile banking accounts cannot exceed Tk10,000. The same circular stipulates that a mobile banking account-holder can withdraw up to Tk25,000 per day and a maximum of Tk1,25,000 every month.

But cracking this stipulation has been easy as one person can have as many mobile banking accounts as the number of registered SIM cards they own. Even one can have mobile accounts in several banks simultaneously against the same SIM card, sources said.

Bangladesh Bank Executive Director Mahfuzur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune that the Chapainawabganj deputy commissioner’s office had recently wrote to them, asking for information on the banking transactions made in the district every day. “The existing laws do not allow commercial banks to provide clients’ personal information to anyone without court order or the central bank’s instructions…We have already written letters to the Public Administration and Home Ministries expressing our limitations,” he said.

But the district administrations can seek specific information from the central bank based on specific reports, he said.

Sources in intelligence agencies have told the Dhaka Tribune that some 25 organisation are mainly patronising the terror attacks.

The Bangladesh Bank and police detectives are jointly working to identify and prepare a list of these organisations so that they can be brought under law, the sources said.

According to Monirul Islam, chief of the Detective Branch (DB) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), arrested arsonists have mentioned the names of these organisations and patronisers during interrogation.

“These organisations belong political parties and their associate wings,” said Monirul but refused to disclose any name just as yet for the sake of investigation.

Source: Dhaka Tribune

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