Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate of the National Board of Revenue (NBR) has requested Bangladesh Bank to provide a legal explanation of a provision of the Money Laundering Prevention (Amendment) Act 2015 which the Directorate says is hampering its activities.
According to NBR sources, a number of cases filed by the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate have stalled due to legal complexities.
The Money Laundering Prevention (Amendment) Act 2015 designates government agencies like Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Customs and Tax Department and Narcotics Control Department as well as the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) as investigation agencies.
As per the amended Act, the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate of NBR has got the power to investigate in money laundering cases. However, complexities have arisen in submitting the charge-sheet in such cases.
Under the law, the NBR has to take approval from the relevant authority for submitting the charge-sheet. But the law doesn't identify the appropriate authority.
The Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate last month sent a letter to the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) of the central bank requesting clarification of this provision of the law. The letter, signed by its director general Dr Moinul Khan, requested Bangladesh Bank to obtain a legal opinion in the matter.
”Without the identification of the Authority, every government agency that will investigate anything under the Law will face the same problem, so it is best to resolve the matter as soon as possible," a senior official of NBR told UNB.
Article 12 of the Money Laundering Prevention (Amendment) Act 2015 requires the Directorate to take approval from the relevant authority, but does not mention who is that authority. In the Money Laundering Prevention Ordinance 2012 that authority was identified as the Anti-Corruption Commission.
According to Article 12(1) of the Money Laundering Prevention (Amendment) Act 2015 no court would take cognizance of any case without approval from the authority.
In Article 12(2), it is said that the investigating official should take prior approval from the authority to submit the charge-sheet after completing the investigation. The investigating official should submit a letter of approval to the court with the charge-sheet.
Although the government bears the responsibility to identify the authority through formulating rules and regulations under the law, there is no progress in this regard more than a year after the law was passed.
As a result the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate officials cannot submit their charge-sheet after completing their investigations in money laundering cases.
The letter sent to Bangladesh Bank from the Directorate also mentioned that the customs officials seized US$94,649, Canadian $5,000, Indian rupee 3,53,050 and two //TWO, PLEASE CHECK// Malaysian ringgit from one M Farid Hossain, a passenger coming from India via Benapole check post on July 15 last year.
On august 22, an NBR official lodged a case in the matter. Two NBR officials were given charge to investigate the matter and prepare a charge-sheet.
Problems arose when they wanted to submit the charge-sheet. As per the Money Laundering Prevention (Amendment) Act 2015, they needed permission from the authority, but did not know which authority to approach.
In the letter, the DG Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate mentioned that there are some other cases pending for the same reason and that ongoing investigations would also run into the same problem.