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Doubtful jumps of capital machinery imports

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08th-Jan-2017       
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IMPORT payments for capital machinery increased by 80.80 per cent to US$ 2.49 billion in the first five months (July-November) of the current financial year compared with that in the same period a year ago, strengthening suspicion of money laundering as the growth came amid dull business and investment situation in the country, as per a report of a local daily.

The latest Bangladesh Bank data released on Thursday showed that import of industrial raw materials also posted a positive growth in the July-November period of FY17 compared with that of the same period in FY16. Experts and BB officials said that some businessmen were now laundering money abroad in the form of import of capital machinery when the country's business was facing a dull situation.

The country's business is now facing a stagnant situation, and so the rising import of capital machinery raises a suspicion that money laundering might be occurring behind the scenes.

Former interim government adviser AB Mirza Azizul Islam is reported to have said that some persons had conducted capital flight in the form of import of capital machinery, as per the report. They have done it through over-invoicing in the letters of credit form (LCF) as the country's economy now was not so strong that the jump in the import of capital machinery could be explained. This view was echoed by former BB governor Salehuddin Ahmed, as per the report.

It is well known that capital flight is a serious problem facing all developing countries including Bangladesh. The solutions to the problem are also easy -- it should not be a big matter to coordinate the knowledge of Bangladeshi citizens who hold accounts which have huge cash reserves -- provided the central banks of developed countries co-operate. While the Western banks have strict privacy policies these can be circumvented -- as the US has done with the FACTA Act which requires all banks -- including Swiss ones, to notify the US of the wealth of their US citizen accounts.

Data from the Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a Washington-based research organisation, gives a comprehensive picture about money laundered out of a country. Illegal capital flight from Bangladesh surged 33.78 percent year-on-year to $9.66 billion in 2013 through trade misinvoicing and other channels, according to the GFI.

The highest in a decade, the amount was more than six percent of the country's GDP and one-third of the export receipts in 2013. It is three times the size of average foreign aid Bangladesh received in recent times. The organisation had ranked Bangladesh 26th in the list of the countries that lost most money to illicit money outflows.  This is why Bangladeshi citizens' deposits with Swiss banks rose to 8.85 percent year-on-year in 2015 to an astounding Tk 4,423 crore (550.85 million Swiss franc), shows Swiss central bank data -- up from only 1222 crore in 2011.This tremendous amount should not be lost forever, it must be brought back into the country.       
 

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