Sunday, November 1, 2020 | ePaper

Financial crimes during the pandemic must be held in check

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MEDIA report on Wednesday said economic downturn triggered by ongoing Covid-19 has created many holes in the banking and financial system through which money launderers and fraudsters are seeking to amass huge wealth by illicit trade, financial crimes and such other mischief. In many cases criminals are attempting to profit by posing as genuine businesses and there is a genuine fear that such organized crimes may only grow. Fake covid patient treatment, high cost procurement of protection equipment and such crimes captured media headlines in recent past.
Security experts have rightly recommended tightening collective watch by all law enforcement agencies to combat illicit financial crime mainly trade based crimes. This is not only important to plug the loopholes to save the economy but also to protect government revenue. In this context we believe experts' suggestion for regulatory bodies makes sense when they said it is important at this moment to check how the current internal control mechanism and compliance system is working against all financial transactions and at trade level in particular. The regulatory system must have enough leverage in the ongoing situation to identify Covid-19 related frauds including under the cover of exports and imports.  
Need no mention that the call for strict vigilance on all banks and financial institutions by Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of Bank of Bangladesh Bank is visibly making no impact to curb the trade-based money laundering.  As per statistics about 60 capital flights from Bangladesh takes place through illicit trade and it is not coming down since powerful business houses and individuals linked to the ruling party are engaging in the mischief.
Moreover, the recent arrest of two ruling party men has exposed how cronies were exploiting government contracts for treatment of Covid-19 patients in private hospitals and clinics. These fraudsters were known as close ruling party lobbyists and got license to treat pandemic patients free of cost at their facilities. But they were also realizing hefty treatment fee from patients in one hand and produced several thousand bills each on the other for reimbursing by the government as treatment cost.  Some other cases showed how poor PPE materials were supplied at high cost. Such cases were aplenty and we would say it must be stopped.  

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