Trade -Based Money Laundering: NBR lacks full logistics to frame charges: Experts

Al Amin :
The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has failed to frame charges against 78 per cent accused who were involved in trade based money laundering (TBML).

Lack of proper knowledge, training and unprofessionalism of the NBR officials are among the causes of such a failure, experts said.

The NBR officials have managed to finalise only 20 probe reports out of 107 TBMLs, although these cases have proper ground to frame charges against the accused, according to a report of the Internal Resources Division of the Finance Ministry.

Besides, another 154 money laundering cases (41 in CIID, 112 in Chattagram Customs House and 1 in CIC) are also at the enquiry stage, the report showed.

NBR officials blamed various limitations for delay in placing final investigation reports of the money laundering cases.

Among the shortcomings, longer procedure of information collection, having no legal cell to expedite the enquiry and investigation activities of the cases, disruption of continuation of the inquiry for regular transfer of the investigation officials, having no specific custody to arrest the accused person, lack of dedicated consultants to provide legal advice for handling the cases, having no public prosecutors to handle cases after filing them with the courts, lack of experienced and skilled officials and sufficient funds for enquiry and investigation are the major barriers to the delay, the NBR officials said.

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The NBR has been empowered to investigate the TBML cases in 2015 and some provisions have been incorporated in the Customs Act in 2018 with a view to curbing heinous crimes.

Since then, the officials of the NBR, the responsible authority to scrutinise the trade transactions for TBML, are investigating the 107 cases. But, it has failed to detect and prevent TBML due to being under-resourced and lacking the necessary expertise, the experts said.

They further said there is a little progress in the investigation and prosecution of the money laundering cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act across the country as the cases are under
investigation for years, although the TBML is a silent killer that undermines the very foundations of the country’s economic growth.

As an emerging economy and, more so, an expanding trading nation that is going through LDC graduation, Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to TBML.

This illicit activity is weakening financial institutions, eroding foreign currency reserves, and undermining international trade, leaving the country’s economy in a shambles and stakeholders in despair, the experts said.

The TBML, also known as trade mis-invoicing, has become rampant primarily to evade tax.

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