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Thursday, June 21, 2018 12:54:19 PM
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Gold market reform must be high on card

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18th-May-2017       
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CUSTOMS Intelligence and Investigations Directorate (CIID) officials said three owners of Apan Jewelers who are facing investigation following the Banani rape incident by a member of their family have failed to produce valid documents of all gold and diamonds held from their stocks in four city markets. The CIID is looking into the sources of the 286kg gold and 61 grammes of diamonds it confiscated from these outlets and trying to ascertain how these entered the country and whether or not they have paid taxes.

The Banani rape case involving two private university students has taken to the fore the gold smuggling business of the family which made them wealthy to engage in multi-million dollar illegal business and criminal activities. The CIID disclosure suggests they do not have valid documents for the gold and that they have brought it using illegal  channels such as smuggling through airports. It also gives the hindsight that big people who don't dare to break law are engaging in gold smuggling and powerful people are protecting their business.

Gold business in the country, as it appears lacks transparency as it mainly enters the country misusing 'baggage rules' to bring in gold ornaments and gold bars. Jewelers said the prevailing policy to import gold is complex and costly. They have been asking the government for long to facilitate them to import and sell gold legally, but things haven't worked out so far pushing a section of wealthy people to resort to smuggling. .

Why not the government is allowing formal import of gold has no good answer. It is as if we are deliberately making people criminals for going into gold businessmen. Of around 30 gold smuggling syndicates involved, 23 operate inside Bangladesh and the rest from outside. The gold is smuggled through airports as the intelligence agency reports said.

Eleven of the 23 syndicates in Bangladesh are directly involved in gold smuggling and others smuggle gold operating money exchange houses as cover to their illegal business. Political leaders and other influential persons patronize them while a section of intelligence officers, police officials and Border Guard Bangladesh are also helping them to run the business in exchange of huge financial benefits. It partly explains why it can't be stopped despite periodic seizure of huge gold at Dhaka and other airports.

In neighbouring India, the central bank sells gold through its authorized agents. The gold sellers in Bangladesh are demanding for such arrangement for the past 20 years, but the government has not paid them any heed. Like most institutions, the improper regulatory framework in the gold market prevents merchants from buying it legally and run the business with full transparency. So they are resorting to illegal practices.

It is unfortunate that a rape had to occur for the government to shine light into the chaotic gold market, but it must carry out reforms so that there is no need for illegal smuggling to make people criminals and flourish.

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