On the occasion of International Anti Corruption Day, The Business Standard’s Morshed Noman spoke to Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director, Transparency International Bangladesh on ways to prevent money laundering
It is possible to bring back siphoned money – earned through corruption – with the help of an existing national and international framework of law. For this, courage, goodwill and skills are key to carrying out the purpose, according to Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman. The TIB executive director shared his observations in a recent interview with The Business Standard. Iftekharuzzaman said since smuggled money has been recovered before, the authorities concerned know the whole process.
Asked why laundered money is not brought back now, though it was brought back years ago, he said maybe there used to be skills to do that job before – skills that are lacking now. "In a true sense, there might be much want for goodwill at present," he added. The whole process of retrieving siphoned-off funds is now easier because it should follow the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). Under the convention, it is possible to make agreements with other countries to retrieve the smuggled funds.
It is possible to get help if the authorities concerned want, he said, adding, "If it was possible in 2012-13, it is also possible now." Iftekharuzzaman thinks that an amendment to the Money Laundering Act has created a lack of coordination in the work of all other organisations involved in anti-money laundering activities. "However, I think it is possible to work in a coordinated manner within the existing law," he continued. An anti-money laundering unit led by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) will be able to reap benefits, he hopes.
On the recent comment of Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen that the government officials laundered more money, the TIB high-up said there was a public perception on the issue beforehand. One thing that has become transparent is that for the first time, a responsible person in the government has acknowledged that government employees are involved in money laundering. He noted that the incidence and level of corruption in the country is still alarming, and there is no reason for complacency.
The TIB executive director described the state of corruption in the health sector as a result of long-standing accumulated graft in the sector. Bangladesh is still far behind on the global index of corruption and its position in Asia is only above Afghanistan which is embarrassing for the country. He emphasised the importance of political will to reduce the magnitude of corruption, highlighting the need for exemplary justice for the perpetrators from outside the realm of fear and discrimination.
Apart from this, other state and constitutional institutions should be made functional along with the ACC. Iftekharuzzaman observed that many organisations are ineffective due to party influence. "So we have to ensure their effectiveness and more dynamism is expected from the ACC to prevent corruption in the country," he added.
According to the researcher, the ACC can still play a big role in preventing and suppressing corruption in terms of legal and institutional capacity. The ACC was quite active in the first two years since its current commission took the charge, he said, observing that there were several positive measures taken against lower- and mid-level corrupt people.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman is Executive Director, Transparency International Bangladesh.