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Bangladesh authority collecting information on ‘Begum Para’ property owners in Toronto

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Bangladesh authority collecting information on ‘Begum Para’ property owners in Toronto

Sohail Choudhury

Capital flight has become a serious concern for Bangladesh’s economy. Silently but enormously, money is being laundered to safe destinations worldwide. According to date, Bangladeshis’ deposits with Swiss banks rose by 36 percent in the year 2014.

According to Dhaka’s largest English newspaper The Daily Star, a section of politicians, young or old, who have made easy fortunes, are increasingly investing their questionable wealth abroad to ensure a secure future for their families.

A number of leaders of both the Awami League and the BNP — from the central level to associate student bodies of the two parties — are learned to have secured their future overseas, by winning citizenship for their families through investment visas or business migration schemes.

According to a credible source, many politicians from top to mid-level have invested in properties abroad. They have made investments in the names of their wives and children.

An influential AL leader has allegedly bought a mansion in Canada. Another leader of the party, who holds the position of a state minister, has invested in properties in London and Malaysia. There are other AL men who did the same, said party insiders and immigration consultants.

Similarly, a minister of the last BNP-led government has made considerable investments in Singapore. The BNP leader and his family spent most of the last six years there. His son invested in a private port in Sri Lanka.

Another former minister of the party and his son have made sizeable investments in properties in the US.

Such properties are bought mostly with ill-gotten money, which is being siphoned off from Bangladesh through unauthorized financial channels such as hundi to countries that openly offer fast immigration opportunities through investment.

Canada, followed by Malaysia, is by far the top choice of these leaders. An area in Toronto is known as “Begum Para” among expatriate Bangladeshis there. Begums (wives) live with their children there and the husbands run political activities and businesses in Bangladesh.

According to Bangladesh High Commission in Canada, until 2015, more than one hundred thousand Bangladeshis were living in Canada while the number grew many folds during the past few years. Canadian government statistics show that the number of Bangladeshi immigrants was 33,230 until 2006.

The other major destinations of the capital flight from Bangladesh are the UK, the USA, Australia, Singapore, the UAE, and Thailand. Money is being invested in properties and businesses also in countries such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Mauritius.

The unfortunate fact is, London has become the epicenter of dirty money, while the British authorities are instead of taking actions against those who had invested laundered money or black money in the United Kingdom are instead of extending total support and even patronization to those corrupt people. Taking this unique opportunity, some of the members of notorious crime rackets such as D-Company as well as funders of jihadist outfits such as Islamic State have also obtained immigrant status under investor’s Visa Tier-1 program in Britain. In fact, the United Kingdom’s greed for getting investment is such rogue that it even shelters individuals facing Interpol Red Notice for their active involvement in serious crimes, thus compromising the security of the Britons.

A Bangladeshi citizen is not permitted to move more than $5,000 out of the country at a time. But through illegal means, one can siphon off capital very easily, no matter how large the sum is.

Anti-Corruption Commission officials say they are investigating money laundering cases that have been on the rise in recent years.

According to the ACC annual report in 2013, the commission received several hundred allegations of money laundering and investigated 118 cases. The figure was 39 in 2012. Many of these cases involved politicians, said commission officials.

Our Canada correspondent said, there are over 150 properties owned by corrupt politicians from Bangladesh alone in Toronto city in Canada. Most of these properties are located in the Richmond area, while during the past few years an unknown number of properties were purchased by Bangladeshi nationals in Canada as well as other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and Malaysia.

As part of the ongoing drive against corruption, extortion, tender manipulation, dealing in drugs and illegal casinos, authorities in Bangladesh already are collecting information on properties owned by Bangladesh nationals in various countries, including Canada.

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