Money laundering under the cover of machinery imports

SUDDENLY the import bills for December last increased by 20.05 percent ahead of the January 5 national elections compared with a 2.30 percent growth in imports in December 2012 raising suspicions of massive money laundering by vested quarters under the cover of imports. News reports in a national English daily on Tuesday said quoting a Bangladesh Bank data relating to overall settlement of L/Cs involving over $3.05 billion for December last year that the figure was $2.54 billion for December 2012 and $2.48 billion for December 2011 showing the sudden rise in this December’s import bill payment, although it was an unfriendly business period. In fact such money laundering was quite anticipated before the elections but why the government agencies did not take extra vigilance is the big question.
The report said that the Bangladesh Bank governor decided to sit with senior officers of commercial banks to demand increased cooperation to check L/Cs and the import items with prices so that money laundering can be effectively stopped. But as we know that the central bank has issued such guidelines to banks on many occasions in the past. The question is why it is failing to secure compliance of their rules and moreover why it is planning to sit now instead of before the election as a precautionary step to alert them. We are always bewildered by the reactive steps of the central bank which has so far failed to take any pro-active action. This is total inefficiency and neglect to routine duty of the senior central bank officials – be it in the case of the Hall Mark scandal or import bills irregularities.
The report said huge amounts of import was reported in the payment bills for December particularly of capital machinery to raise questions as to why, when the wheels of the economy were at a total halt due to blockades and hartals, who had ordered such imports and which banks had opened the L/Cs to facilitate it. The central bank officials therefore rightly suspect the incident of money laundering. The question is whether any real machinery import has taken place at all or the money was only transferred in connivance with customs officials under the import cover. Any field verification may prove it. The Bangladesh Bank data showed that the import of capital machinery increased by 101.36 percent to $201.87 million in December from $100.25 million in December 2012. It is contrary to the reality in the ground.
It is true that imports of food grains, edible oil and chemical fertilisers also increased remarkably in December last year, pushing up the country’s overall imports in the period.
But the major suspect is the huge import of capital goods at a time when no major industrial plant is under construction or going for expansion. The matter deserves to be thoroughly probed but we fear if the perpetrators are operating within the government or are close to power, the matter may go unattended. We urge the central bank and the government to look into the matter seriously before it is too late.

Your email address will not be published.