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The Financial Express
Swasti Lankabangla Swasti Lankabangla

Phony imports linked to money laundering!


Phony imports linked to money laundering!

Statistics are often blamed for creating all sorts of confusion. This is more so when different sources do present different statistics about one particular issue.

Bangladesh's grain import from Canada in 2019 is a case in point.

The country's grain import from Canada, according to Statistics Canada, in 2019 jumped to $1.08 billion from $438 million in 2018, representing a 128.31 per cent rise.

Thus, Bangladesh has become the fourth largest buyer of Canadian grains, after China, Japan and the United States.

The Canadian International Merchandise Trade Database shows that Bangladesh procured wheat worth $406 million, peas and lentils worth $351 million and soybeans and canola worth $369 million.  The increase in the case of oilseeds was almost seven-fold.

But the statistics available with the Bangladesh Bank on country-wise import payments do not match with the Canadian figures. According to the BB, import payments to Canada in the fiscal year 2017-18 stood at around $500 million. In 2018-19, such payments increased by $100 million to $600 million.

Big traders of Chittagong and Dhaka are also not aware of such a huge increase in import of grains from Canada.

However, The Western Producer, a leading Canadian agricultural publication suspects that a part of the large import of grains from Canada might have found its way into India, Bangladesh's next door neighbour. India, it said, has started placing tariffs and quotas on a wide variety of imported farm produces in an effort to offer better prices to its farmers.

Another reason---flight of capital from Bangladesh to Canada in the garb of grain import--- cannot be ruled out.

Canada has become the most attractive destination for Bangladeshis for the purpose of residency in recent years. Canada, compared to other Western countries, is still maintaining a relaxed attitude towards incoming Bangladeshis.

Allegations have it that a section of Bangladesh nationals who amassed wealth through illegal means at home have been transferring the same to Canada. Some of them are staying in Bangladesh alone while their families have settled in Canada. It is believed that at opportune moments they would also fly to Canada to stay there permanently.

Many Bangladeshis have been taking advantage of the provision of securing Canadian citizenship by depositing 150,000 Canadian dollars, which is equivalent to only Tk 11 million. Moreover, the anti-money laundering law in Canada reportedly is not very stringent. Thus, bank loan defaulters and other corrupt elements have found it rather easy to transfer their ill-gotten wealth to Canada. A good number of them reportedly are enjoying a very affluent and luxurious life. Even some are out to create their own spheres of influence within the community.

Funds siphoned off from countries like Bangladesh are now flowing into some of the Canadian provinces. The majority Bangladeshis living in that country are increasingly becoming vocal against these 'plunderers' of national wealth. They have, reportedly, organised protest meetings against the latter in a number of Canadian cities and towns. Even the issue might be taken to the notice of the state financial monitoring agencies, according to a media report.

The alleged transfer of huge funds, embezzled from the People's Leasing, a non-bank financial institute (NBFI), and other financial institutions, by one PK Halder to Canada does only strengthen the suspicion about the transfer of  funds to other countries using shady trade transactions.

It is widely believed that most part of the funds earned through illicit means is being taken out of the country taking recourse to trade misinvoicing. The Global Financial Integrity (GFI) in a number of reports published in recent years has also confirmed it.

There prevails a strong suspicion that the scope of amassing wealth using illegal means has expanded in recent years. Some people, allegedly, using their links with powerful quarters have been making money with ease. 

The raid in so-called casinos and the recovery of huge money and other valuables from their possession of a few people have only strengthened such notion.

Most people tend to believe that a large part of the bad loans belonging to banks has been taken out of the country by a section of influential borrowers. A part of such funds has surely travelled to Canada.

There is no denying that it is highly difficult to check movement of liquid assets and human talents. Yet many countries have been trying to check the first one using various anti-money laundering measures.   

The government should immediately look into the issue of sudden jump in imports of grains from Canada. There must be something wrong somewhere. Had there been sudden increase in imports in huge volume, the operators at the country's major trade centres would have noticed it. The figures of the Bangladesh Bank and the Statistics Canada would have also matched.

 

zahidmar10@gmail.com

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