Before the news of Jubo Mohila League leader Shamima Noor Papia's arrest on charge of supply of counterfeit currency notes, drug and sex trade and possession of illegal firearms could become stale, the busting of ill-gotten treasure trove by law enforcers in the city has surprised the nation. From five iron chests in a three-room apartment on Lalmohan Saha Street in old Dhaka, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) recovered Tk 265 million, FDR worth Tk 50 million, one kilogram of gold and currencies of a number of countries. Unsurprisingly, Bangla papers have called it a godown or warehouse of money.
So far it is the biggest haul of money in connection with casino scam. Earlier the RAB conducted 30 raids in which 275 people -most of whom were leaders of various Awami League front organisations-were arrested. Among the arrestees the most prominent and influential were six Jubo League leaders, three councillors of Dhaka city and one Krishak League leader. During the two-month drive against gambling used to be held mostly in sporting clubs, Tk 80 million, a large amount of foreign currencies, gambling equipment along with 18 firearms and 277 rounds of ammunition and narcotics were recovered.
After the latest unearthing of the illegal storage of money which was stacked away by Enamul Haque Enu and Rupon Bhuyan, two brothers arrested earlier on January 13 for their alleged involvement in casino business, there is suspicion that more such hidden lairs of money and illegal materials are yet to be busted. Clearly, the suspects and their illegal possessions are under watch by the law enforcement agencies. This latest raid has been conducted after about five months following the launching of the drive in September.
Here two aspects are particularly encouraging. The prime minister herself took initiative to launch an anti-corruption operation within her party. Papia's arrest and the busting of the storehouse of the illegal wealth are part of the anti-corruption drive.
However, such corrective actions must, of necessity, be perceived by the common people as such. This is why it is said that justice done is not enough; it has to be perceived that justice has been done. Prompt and sustained actions including meting out punishment to the culprits can help the cause.
Here the drive is not just against some gamblers but some abstract values associated with society and politics. Society cannot encourage people to try their luck on gambling because this seriously undermines people's talents, hard work, perseverance, honest living and integrity of character. Politics also stands for some ideals and values that protect interests of the weak and underprivileged in society but not advance party followers' cause by any means.
That Bangladesh has been making rapid financial gains goes to its credit. But at the same time, the undue advantage the privileged are taking has also turned out to be a cause for concern. Today social polarisation is taking place at a furious pace. It is not for nothing that the country has earned the dubious distinction of creating the superrich possessing no less than $30 million or Tk 250 crore at the fastest rate in the world.
One wonders if their wealth is earned by the sweat of their brow. Some of the signs are uneasy. Quite a few people have been accused of money-laundering of huge amounts before fleeing the country. Many have second homes in Malaysia and Canada. Then the Panama Papers have disclosed names of a number of people who have secret Swiss accounts. Clearly, the money so channelled out of the country is all black or ill-gotten money.
On the same token, the undue advantage enjoyed by loan defaulters and rules of the Bangladesh Bank bent to reschedule defaulted loans do not send an encouraging message. When the big loan defaulters are allowed the leeway and interests on small savers' deposits curtailed, the reward is definitely misplaced. The tussle over single-digit interest on all types of credit has not prolonged for nothing.
In villages poor women pay interests at the rate of 18 to 20 per cent to different NGOs and still there is hardly any defaulter. But paying interests at such high rates is cruel indeed. Even small and medium enterprises (SMEs) do not get required official credits but the number of big loan defaulters has been going up. Why?
Any opaque system -- whether related to banking or financial institute -- cannot deliver distributive justice and reward enterprises and industries running fairly. Business malpractices and unethical income from drug or human trafficking leave a corrosive impact on the mental makeup of the young generation. In turn it gives rise to a shady economy with portents for implosion from within.