During the Golden Jubilee celebration of Bangladesh’s victory in the 1971 war of independence against Pakistani occupation forces, United States has imposed sanctions on Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), several officers of this anti-terrorist elite force and the Inspector General of Police with allegations of human rights violation and extrajudicial killings. Meanwhile, at least four lobbyist firms appointed by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) are pursuing the United Nations in barring participation of the members of Bangladesh Armed Forces and Bangladesh Police (who has or had been on deputation in RAB) from the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces (UNPKF). Bangladesh Foreign Ministry has already sent a letter to the US State Department with the request to lift the sanctions. While Bangladesh authorities are making efforts in getting the recently imposed sanctions lifted, according to credible sources, the Biden administration has decided to adopt a stricter policy on combating corruption. As part of this policy, US President Joe Biden is going to impose sanctions on a large number of civil servants and politicians in Bangladesh.
The policy states that those who purchased properties in the United States and deposited cash through money laundered from abroad would be asked to submit specific evidence showing such properties were not purchased with dirty money. Failing in providing such evidence will result in confiscation of assets and freezing of bank accounts. The US administration will publish list of the sanctioned individuals once punitive measures are taken.
A highly-placed source in the Biden administration told Weekly Blitz that President Joe Biden is putting special emphasis in combating corruption and money laundering under its policy of checking global corruption. As part of this initiative, an investigation has already been launched on gathering details about properties purchased by foreigners through laundered cash.
According to the US administration sources, such actions are not only going to be taken against Bangladeshi civil servants and politicians, but it also will be applied on a large number of individuals from India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal and other South Asian nations as well as nations in Asia and other continents. The source s*aid, dozens of Bangladeshi bureaucrats and politicians are already on the potential list of sanctions. It said, the fresh list of sanctions will be published by the first quarter of 2022.
Meanwhile, seeking anonymity, a highly placed intelligence source told Blitz that a large number of high-profile politicians, businessmen and civil-military bureaucrats may come under the new sanction list.
It said, since 2001, the trend of buying properties in the US and depositing large amount of cash in banks by Bangladeshi nationals have reached an alarming level. Such amounts were laundered into the United States mostly through illegal hawala channels operated by Bangladeshi nationals living in New York City and other parts of the country.
The source further said, initially it was anticipated that majority of the people who had purchased properties in the United States with dirty money were politicians from Bangladesh. But the recent investigations have found that most of these people are bureaucrats.
The source said, until now, the US administration has already detected hundreds of properties purchased with dirty money mostly by bureaucrats. Owners of these properties will be asked to submit valid documents showing the amount were earned through legal means and transferred to the United States through banking channels. Anyone failing in providing such evidences will face sanctions and their properties will be confiscated and bank accounts frozen.
The US administration has also detected several properties and bank accounts which are even owned by some serving Bangladeshi bureaucrats.
After the failure of the Embargo Act of 1807, the federal government of the United States took little interest in imposing embargoes and economic sanctions against foreign countries until the 20th century. United States trade policy was entirely a matter of economic policy. After World War I, interest revived. President Woodrow Wilson promoted such sanctions as a method for the League of Nations to enforce peace. However, he failed to bring the United States into the League and the US did not join the 1935 League sanctions against Italy.
However, in 1940, the United States participated in the ABCD line against Japan, and the Helium Act of 1925 forbade export of that strategic commodity. Interest in the trade as a tool of foreign policy expanded during the Cold War era, and many economic sanctions were applied.
The Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, was only in effect for five years. Later, sanctions were additionally aimed against countries which the US government listed as “State Sponsors of Terrorism”.
The concept of sanctioning countries was realized when the United Nations (UN) was founded at the end of World War II. The idea of sanctioning reduced slavery, diminished the drug trade, and provided nations with non-violent coercive methods for use in foreign policy.
Sanctions imposed by the United States government include:
Ban on arms-related exports
Controls over dual-use technology exports
Restrictions on economic assistance
Requiring the United States to oppose loans by the World Bank and other international financial institutions
Diplomatic immunity waived, to allow families of terrorist victims to file for civil damages in US courts
Tax credits for companies and individuals denied, for income earned in listed countries
Duty-free goods exemption suspended for imports from those countries
authority to prohibit US citizens from engaging in financial transactions with the government on the list, except by license from the US government
Prohibition of US Defense Department contracts above US$100,000 with companies controlled by countries on the list.
Now the billion-dollar question is, shall the Biden administration lift recently imposed sanctions on the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), several officers of this anti-terrorist elite force and the Inspector General of Police? As a patriotic citizen of Bangladesh, I would be extremely delighted if the answer was affirmative.
We need to understand, any sanctions imposed by the US is not any hurried act or result of whimsical decision. Rather such sanctions are result of months or years of paperwork and in most cases, efforts made by lobbyists and propagandists (including non-government organizations). If we want to get rid of such punitive measures, our whole efforts should be made through diplomatic channels, and of course, such measures and efforts should not be propagated or made public. We need to understand, diplomacy is not any act of individuals addicted to cheap political statements and stunts. This is truly a very sensitive path.
In my opinion, getting the sanctions lifted from Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), several officers of this anti-terrorist elite force and the Inspector General of Police is not a mission impossible. But of course, nothing can be achieved overnight. At the same time, we need to act forthwith and engage influential quarters and lobby (not lobbyists only) in the United States, which can help us in resolving this crisis and help us from any further sanctions or punitive measures.
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