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Unimaginable looting by co-operatives

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11th-Aug-2017       
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COOPERATIVE Societies as they operate without exclusive government monitoring are grabbing money of poor innocent  people without serious accountability. Over 266 co-operatives are reported to have nicked Tk 4,068 crore from thousands of savers who have been cheated over the years. Many of the so-called co-operative business ventures have disappeared overnight, and most of them are not returning money back.

It is not only the co-operatives' members who have been cheated but many ordinary citizens too. Tempted by the lure of fast and quick profits, people in thousands had invested in these co-operatives only to see the business disappeared. The closure of  Destiny Multi-purpose Co-operative Society alone had grabbed the lion's share amounting to over Tk 1,458 crore. However, the point is that big-scale swindling has happened dodging existence laws and despite warnings from various quarters.

According to our Bank Company Law, only the public and private banks have the right to deal with public deposits. They can accept clients' or public money for either investing or re-investing in various businesses. Co-operative Societies can merely deposit members' money, but this legal provision has been hugely violated in Bangladesh. This could only happen because of the same old problem - there is no monitoring and implementation of the rule of law.

True, Bangladesh Bank (BB) had often issued circulars by warning the people not to deposit money with these Co-operative Societies but few paid heed. However, now the question is whether this money is recoverable or not?

Even though the victims are equally guilty for not listening to warnings and depositing money with these dubious business schemes, the government still has a crucial role to play in recovering the money. Coupled with law enforcement agencies the government should not only identify and arrest the co-operative culprits it should find out where the money went out. They should also make a move to seize all movable and immovable assets of these co-operative societies operating under the guise of so-called 'Multi-level Marketing'. Their bank accounts should be frozen.

Needs to be mentioned, the MLM companies in many countries are legal operations. But they are barred from taking up 'Pyramid' scheme to sell their products and services; which is a way of defrauding people. The government on its part should launch a massive campaign to make people, particularly the unemployed ones aware of the dangers of being lured by absurd promises either about commissions or high return on investments. Lastly, law making must be expedited for regulating all co-operatives now in business in the country.

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