Legal hurdles impede laundered money return

19 July 2021

Gualm Rabbani and Noman Mosharef :
Hundreds of cases filed under the Money Laundering Prevention Act remained pending before the Supreme Court and the subordinate courts for years as the investigation procedure of these highly sensitive cases is taking much more time than the usual.
The authorities apparently have no initiative to dispose of the cases as soon as possible that resulted in lingering the return of the laundered money.
The trial of the cases cannot be started and disposed of in time due to legal complications, delay in investigation, time prayers by the accused, lack of coordination and stay orders issued by the High Court Benches, sources said.
As a result, purpose of controlling the money laundering related offences including illegal transactions has been hampered seriously. The desired result of enacting a separate law and constituting special courts
 for holding trial of these cases has not yet achieved.
A total of 408 cases, filed under the Money Laundering Prevention Act at different times, are now pending in the Special Judge's Courts of Dhaka and other divisional cities and districts since the enactment of the law in 2012. Of these, 60 to 70 cases are related to major financial irregularities and scams.
According to the Supreme Court Administration and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the trial of 52 cases has been suspended following the orders passed by the High Court, while 85 cases have been pending for more than 5 years. And a total of 185 cases remained pending in 10 Special Courts in Dhaka.
Some appeal petitions against the lower court sentences and bail petitions related to 10 to 15 such cases are awaiting hearing in the High Court.
Among the 408 cases under the Money Laundering Prevention Act, 187 cases were filed by the ACC and the remaining cases have been filed by the National Board of Revenue (NBR) and the Department of Narcotics Control.
Apart from this, many cases filed during the tenure of the defunct Anti-Corruption Bureau have also been pending in the court for a long time.
Only 13 cases have been disposed of till September in 2019, according to the annual report of the Supreme Court. But since then the trend to disposing of the cases has further decreased due to coronavirus pandemic.
There are a total of 29 special judge's courts in the divisional and old district towns, including ten special courts in Dhaka. These special courts deal money laundering cases one day in every week. But in the last one and a half years, no significant money laundering case was settled by these courts.
Khurhsid Alam Khan, a senior lawyer of the Supreme Court, said, "The money laundering theme is not clear to everyone yet. That is why it seems that both the prosecution and the defense sides have lack of maturity in these cases."
Apart from this, most money laundering cases are against the influential people of the society who regularly come to the High Court to frustrate the cases, added the lawyer. During the caretaker government in 2007-2008, cases were filed against politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen and other organizations on charge of laundering money abroad. Most of those cases have not settled yet.
Money laundering case filed against former Minister and BNP leader Dr Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain is still pending in a Special Judge's Court in Dhaka. Another case against former Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan is being re-investigated.
A total of 185 cases filed under the Money Laundering Prevention Act are pending in 10 Special Judge's Courts in Dhaka which included the cases filed against former chairman of Farmers Bank's Audit Committee Mahbubul Haque Chishti alias Babul Chishti, Deputy Inspector General of Prisons Partha Gopal Bonik, former Faridpur Awami League leader Sajjad Hossain alias Barkat and his brother Imtiaz Hasan alias Rubel, suspended Awami League leaders Enamul Haque Enu and his brother Rupon Bhuyain and others.
Money laundering cases filed against former Member of Parliament Kazi Shahidul Islam Papul, absconding Prashanta Kumar Halder (PK Halder), former Jubo League leader Ismail Hossain Samrat, businessman GK Shamim and others are under investigation.
Barrister Shanjid Siddique, a Supreme Court lawyer, said, "The investigation of offences under the Money Laundering Act, 2012 usually takes a long time due to difficulties in collecting evidence given that the accused might have layered the money or integrated it in the financial system in a sophisticated way. After submission of police report when the case moves for trial, the prosecution often fails to produce the witnesses on time. As a result, there is a delay in disposal of the money laundering cases."
 "It is pertinent to mention that the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1958 which sets out the procedure for trial of these cases by Special Judges does not contain any mandatory time limit for completion of trial," added the lawyer.

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