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Deposits with Swiss banks

No initiative to recover ill-gotten money

By Special Correspondent
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The government will go for legal action over the illegal money depositing by some Bangladeshi nationals with the Swiss banks, if the Bangladesh Bank (BB) shows interest about the matter.
"Only the Financial Intelligence Unit [FIU] of the central bank has the authority to initiate an investigation over the siphoning off money. So, if the BB wants, the government will take initiatives for legal step in this regard," Attorney General Mahabubey Alam said on Thursday.
The statement of State's Chief Law Officer came at a time when the ruling Awami League government has been facing widespread criticism at home and abroad over the large-scale money laundering by the local billionaires with the Swiss banks.
Quoting the latest data of the central bank of Switzerland, a report recently carried out by  local and international media, said the amount of money deposited by Bangladeshi nationals with the Swiss banks has increased by 10 per cent in 2015.
The report said total funds held by the Bangladeshis with the Swiss banks stood at CHF [Swiss francs] 559.25 million or US$ 571 million last year. That means, the amount is almost double to the annual budget of some ministries, including Food Ministry for 2017-18.
In an instant reaction, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia had accused the ruling party men of siphoning off their ill-gotten huge money and demanded the government to disclose the names of those Bangladeshis who deposited the money with the Swiss banks.
The BNP Chief said: "Around taka five thousand five hundred crore has been siphoned off this year. Newspapers ran reports that many Bangladeshis have deposited huge money with the Swiss banks. We want to know the identities of those who did it and the amount of their money."
Although the Attorney General has shifted the responsibility of investigation on the shoulder of FIU of BB, the High Court in a verdict given in last June categorically said that Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) could conduct inquiry over any alleged money laundering.  
Earlier, the ACC had lost authority to conduct investigation over money laundering in line with the 'Money Laundering [Amendment] Act, 2015' which was passed in 2015. According to the amended Act, the authority of investigation was awarded to BB's FIU and Criminal Investigation Department [CID] of Police.
Significantly, neither the Financial Intelligence Unit, nor the CID could dispose off any one of the cases since the formulation of the law for the reasons best known to them.  
The ACC, however, regained its authority to conduct investigation into money laundering case following a HC verdict given by a two-member bench led by Justice Enayetur Rahim on June 20.     The BB, earlier, claimed that initiatives had been taken to bring back money from the Swiss banks, but the latest data showed that nothing was done in this regard.  Not only that, it (BB) also failed to make any correspondence with SNB, its counterpart in Zurich, till date.
According to the data provided by SNB, the total money held in the Swiss banks by all their foreign clients from across the world dropped by nearly four per cent or over CHF 58 billion to CHF 1.41 trillion. But deposit by Bangladeshis has increased by 10 per cent.   

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