Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal has defended his budget announcement offering money launderers the option to legalize undeclared offshore assets without facing any questions from authorities, saying this amnesty will lure assets that have been siphoned out of the country. .
While the move drew criticism, the finance minister, at a post-budget press conference on Friday, urged people not to oppose the reintroduction of laundered money into the mainstream economy.
The country’s population has a “right” to assets smuggled overseas, which the government aims to secure, he said, adding, “The laundered money will not come back if this opportunity is not given. not offered. What good will it do for the country?”
While answering a question from reporters, the finance minister said people move to where they find it most comfortable for them. “Money launderers don’t take the money out of a suitcase. We are now in the digital age. There are many mechanisms to divert money overseas, and the money is smuggled out of the country for various reasons.
In the draft budget for the next financial year 2022-23, the minister has proposed a 15% tax on real estate located abroad, and a 10% tax on movable property if it is not brought back to the country. .
Asked about this, Minister Kamal said that 17 countries including the UK, US, Germany, Malaysia and France have granted amnesty to bring laundered money back into their economies during of recent years.
The finance minister claimed Indonesia had recovered $9.6 billion, which had been smuggled overseas, after the country in 2016 offered an amnesty to bring back the laundered money.
He said India had offered to return the money that PK Halder had siphoned off to the country. In addition, the Canadian government has also said that it will take initiatives to return the money that went there from Bangladesh through capital flight, Kamal said, adding that the Canadian authorities are also committed to taking measures to that no one can buy assets in Canada with contraband money.
Not all laundered or undisclosed assets come from bribery and corruption, the finance minister said. “Some money becomes illegal because of the bureaucratic system. Many do not disclose the total amount they earn from selling land, and so it becomes black money.”
He said: “We expect no government agency to question anyone after bringing laundered money home. And those who keep their wealth in the country by regularly paying taxes will not lose. nor their dignity.”
Bangladesh has offered the option of laundering black money at different times since the tenure of the late Finance Minister Saifur Rahman, Kamal said, “Yet this move will draw criticism.”
Questions were raised when the Truth Commission – formed under the military-backed caretaker government that took office on January 11, 2007 – offered the option of legalizing undisclosed assets.
When asked if similar questions would arise if the laundered money was brought back, Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzaque told reporters at the press conference: “At that time, there was no of constitutional government in the country. But we are an elected, democratic, constitutional government…. This time, the facility is granted legally, so there is no possibility of questioning that.”
Echoing Razzaque, Abu Hena Md Rahmatul Muneem, chairman of the National Revenue Council, said that there was no parliament at the time of the formation of the Truth Commission, so their promise was not fulfilled. approved by law. “But this time, the facility is granted in accordance with the law. So no government agency, including the NBR, will raise any questions in this regard.”
Citing a report by Global Financial Integrity, a reporter said that 66,000 crore of Tk is smuggled from the country every year. Thus, he questioned the value of retaining officials of anti-money laundering agencies such as the Anti-Corruption Commission and officials of Bangladesh’s Financial Intelligence Service with public money.
In response to this question, the Minister of Finance said: “We have no information about the laundering of Tk 60, let alone Tk 66,000 crore from Bangladesh. But when we get information, we take action against it. Many people in the country have been charged with money laundering, and many are in jail.”
Fazle Kabir, governor of Bangladesh Bank, said 95% of the money that would be laundered by Bangladeshis and deposited in Swiss banks actually comes from other countries. “We have not received any information that anyone has deposited money in Swiss banks after smuggling it out of Bangladesh.”