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15th-Mar-2016

Such organised robbery going on because of impunity at high level

By Editorial Desk

Organized robberies in the country's banking sector is on the surge such as the latest stealing of Bangladesh Bank's (BB) money from Federal Reserves in New York. Nobody would deny the fact that a sense of impunity and lack of accountability of people indulging in such crimes are only increasing the crime.
The breakdown of law and order and sheltering of criminals by political leaders are creating the critical situation in which people's life and property are on constant threat. Bank robberies are equally part of it.
What was a surprise in 2013 when the swindling of Tk 3,600 crore from a single branch of Sonali Bank by Hallmark Group surfaced sending shock waves to the nation. But it is now stories of robberies of tens and thousands of crore taka from many other banks. Alone BASIC Bank has lost over Tk 4,500 crore over the past several years to fictitious borrowers.
It is almost an open secret that senior bank officials, Board Chairman and Directors appointed by the government had their hands behind those scams. Even some influential advisers of the government had worked as facilitators of many loan scams.
But the latest hacking of BB's account and stealing of US$ 101 million in foreign currency reserves shows that robberies of the country's banking system have already become trans-national.
Breaking of ATM booths and hacking of credit cards by cyber crime groups comprising the locals and foreign
nationals made sensational headlines only last month. Now it is a hundred-million cyber scam again.  
It is really sad that the dollar that BB deposited in New York made its way to the Philippines casinos. Only 68,000 dollar could be retrieved so far.
Bangladesh Bank officials were not only sleeping in Dhaka when hackers had also managed to unlock another US$ 870 million, they were actively involved. The Governor was attending poetry session at Bangla Academy and when he came to know of the robbery, he was anxious to hush it up.
The Finance Minister as well as the Governor have been led to believe that stealing of people's money is part of politics and robbery and corruption are politically no crime. Starting corruption cases here means to stop the banks to try to get back the money. All sides find an escape route for not doing anything to catch hold of the plunderers and see how best to get extracted the money from the thieves.  
Finance Minister AMA Muhith's angry reaction to the fact that BB officials have not informed him of the theft and left him in the dark for over a month is a serious allegation, but it only shows his lack of control and incompetence to oversee how to save public money kept in banks. After the robbers easily plundered money from the country's bank, they were encouraged to steal money from external reserve fund.
When the Finance Minister is threatening BB Governor Dr Atiur Rahman would face punitive action, the governor is on a trip to Delhi amidst all such outcry of financial sector's mismanagement. The poetic governor must explain why he kept quiet for hushing up such big robbery. It is interesting that on return from India he reputedly avoided to meet the Finance Minister and went to see the Prime Minister. It is not clear whether he was allowed to meet her.  
The entire financial sector is in the mess in absence of effective control. The stock market crash of 2010 robbed all small investors while big swindlers took away Tk 50,000 crore from the bourse. Official inquiry had identified 60 influential businessmen having close link to the ruling party for the scam.
The Finance Minister laughed at small investors at that time and declined to publish manipulators names. He also declined to put them on trial.
Many believe that if the BB governor had shown 'audacity' as he has characterized the governor's action by withholding information of the theft, Finance Minister himself has helped the audacity of the bank robbers who are relentlessly breaking in banks and looting public money.
The people do not need such a Finance Minister who protects plunderers of public money so that he remains the most favourite of the present government.