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Millions of dollars siphoned off for `Second Home` outside

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THE New Nation reported that at least US$278 million was siphoned off from Bangladesh to Malaysia till November 2016 under the 'Malaysia My Second Home' (MM2H) project through money laundering. A total of 3399 Bangladeshis made investments to avail the 'second Home' benefit since 2003. The money laundering allegedly by politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen has weakened the financial strength of the country. Apart from political issues, money laundering is a prime cause that contributes to the lower availability of funds in the national economy and hinders the growth potential. Neither Central Bank nor Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) could prevent the siphoning off of money that leads to a loss in  economic growth.

To avail the MM2H, every applicant has to transfer at least $82,000 (about Tk 6.4 million) and over the years the number of such Bangladeshis who prefer second homes increased without any interception. Money laundering has potentially devastating economic, security, and social consequences as it diminishes government tax revenue and thereby indirectly harms honest tax-payers. This also makes government tax collection much more difficult. Because the loss of revenue ultimately means imposing higher tax rates, and corruption-inflated higher costs of public works.

Money laundering creates an unstable liability base and unsound asset structures for financial institutions, creating risks of monetary instability and even systemic crisis. This crisis further leads to loss of credibility and investors' confidence and the potential of destabilising financial systems, particularly in emerging economies.

According to Global Financial Integrity estimates, illicit financial outflows from Bangladesh stood at $ 9.66 billion in 2013 which was $ 7.22 billion in 2012. Despite the scenario, no major initiative to bring back the siphoned off money has been taken. Instead of nabbing the illegal money launderers, the ACC is busy over pursuing petty corruption and thieves to show that they are achieving success.

As ruling party men, Ministers, blessed bureaucrats and privileged businessmen are among the top people who transfer money under MM2H program, no government initiative would bring them under legal scanners. Happily, the ACC has asked Malaysian government for mutual legal assistance and to provide detailed information of some 50 big investments and in response Cash Transaction Report on 14 Bangladeshis has been sent from Malaysia.

Our anti-money laundering laws are strict on paper but not in application. Where actual capital flight has taken place attempts of recovery predictably hit snags. The government must handle the money laundering crimes strictly and at the same time, the legal transactional procedures should be eased up. Only, investment friendly climate can successfully prevent money laundering.

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