Friday, October 13, 2017 EDITORIAL

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 EDITORIAL

1992 TREATY IS UNACCEPTABLE
Rohingya repatriation: UN supervision needed

Whosoever had said that diplomacy is thinking twice before saying nothing had conjectured certain astuteness in taciturnity and circumspection; however in inordinately critical twists and turns in international relations it is incumbent upon state actors to give ambivalence a wide berth. Common sense dictates that in a portentous set of circumstances equivocation is of no avail; vacillation can be futile.
However, equivocation and vacillation were evident since the beginning of the refugee influx. Our mandarins in Dhaka and the minister concerned in their wisdom kept mostly mum for some days; but the nation’s vibrant media, both print and electronic, made the crisis known to the world which definitely stood us in good stead. On 7 September while visiting refugees at Kutupalang Rohingya camp in Ukhiya upazila Turkish first lady Emine Erdogan said what is happening in Myanmar’s Rakhine State is “tantamount to genocide.” She also affirmed that the government of Turkey will stand beside the Rohingyas.
Escaping from the veritable apocalypse of premeditated brutal annihilation and obliteration on a catastrophic scale of the Rohingya Muslims of Arakan in Myanmar through wholesale slaughter, arson, mass rapes by the military and violent Buddhists—-aptly portrayed as ethnic cleansing bearing a resemblance to genocide— a horrific infiux of over half a million wretched people have been forced to take refuge in Bangladesh.
For generations bearing the brunt of macabre diabolical barbarity and veritable inferno in the front line, the Rohingya Muslims—-a very small unarmed innocent mostly underprivileged civilian minority people of Myanmar pulled through amid subhuman treatment, carnage, persecution, massacre, ethnic cleansing of epic dimension which is no less than genocide.
Long considered a pariah state while under the rule of an oppressive military junta known for its depravity and degeneracy from 1962 to 2011, Myanmar stood accused of gross human rights abuses, prompting international condemnation and sanctions. It was thought that after 2015 elections democratic rights will be ensured to the Rohingya Muslims; but that was not to be. Born in an enlightened family and educated abroad, even septuagenarian President Htin Kyaw of Myanmar too does not see eye to eye with the UN chief, the OIC, the US, the UK, the European Union and the rest of the world as regards the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims.
Now about Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi who has been stripped of her Oxford honour owing to her shameful stance on the Rohingya Muslims. A confirmed Muslim hater Islamophobic after her BBC interview with Mishal Husain, presenter of HARDTALK, last year, Suu Kyi said that she “needs ‘solid evidence’ of violence against Rohingya Muslims.” She has been accused of inciting “anti-Rohingya and anti-aid worker sentiment” on Facebook, including a post accusing the World Food Program of feeding Muslim militants. In another post she displayed images of a dead woman and her three children, describing them as ‘Hindu’ “killed by Muslim militants. [Vide Suu Kyi uses Facebook to fuel hatred towards Rohingyas, Amanda Hodge, South East Asia correspondent, theaustralian.com.au/news/world/myanmars-suu-kyi-uses-facebook-to-fuel-hatred-towards-rohingyas dated August 29, 2017.]
It is worth mentioning that the five-point proposal made by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the United Nations to find solution to the Rohingya crisis is a proper outline to pursue which, of necessity, needs the support of all the UN member states in general and the five UNSC permanent member states in particular—China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The final report of the Advisory Commission chaired by Kofi Annan submitted on 23 August put forward recommendations to surmount the political, socio-economic and humanitarian challenges that currently face Rakhine State. The outcome of over 150 consultations and meetings held by the Advisory Commission since its launch in September 2016, it builds on the Commission’s interim report released in March of this year. It addresses in depth a broad range of structural issues that are impediments to the peace and prosperity of Rakhine State. Several recommendations focus specifically on citizenship verification, rights and equality before the law, documentation, the situation of the internally displaced and freedom of movement, which affect the Muslim population disproportionally.
Myanmar’s Union Minister U Kyaw Tint Swe—an individual without portfolio which explains his mediocre status—formally proposed taking back the Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh but offered no specifics on how the repatriation of such a massive refugee population should take place. It was seemingly a red herring. We do not find any logic as to why Bangladesh proposed a bilateral agreement to facilitate the repatriation process and handed over a draft of the proposed deal the visiting minister of Myanmar. Importantly, going back to the 1992 agreement will be irrational.
Adversaries in international conflict often involve third parties to help them reach agreements. It is common knowledge that in diplomatic negotiations from time to time shuttle diplomacy plays a potential role; for instance Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy secured one last deal in September 1975 with the conclusion of a second Egyptian-Israeli disengagement agreement. For example, at the time of the Oslo Accords in 1993 Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister Johan Jørgen Holst brokered the Israel-Palestine negotiation. As the source of the conflict is too well-known, now it will be crucial to look beyond to resolve it without delay for the sake of survival of the Rohingya Muslims who were never allowed the status of even underdogs by the government of Burma, now Myanmar.
In sum, the Rohingya Muslim crisis has to be resolved permanently under direct UN supervision through tripartite agreement.

Comment

Whosoever had said that diplomacy is thinking twice before saying nothing had conjectured certain astuteness in taciturnity and circumspection; however in inordinately critical twists and turns in international relations it is incumbent upon state actors to give ambivalence a wide berth. Common sense dictates that in a portentous set of circumstances equivocation is of no avail; vacillation can be futile.
However, equivocation and vacillation were evident since the beginning of the refugee influx. Our mandarins in Dhaka and the minister concerned in their wisdom kept mostly mum for some days; but the nation’s vibrant media, both print and electronic, made the crisis known to the world which definitely stood us in good stead. On 7 September while visiting refugees at Kutupalang Rohingya camp in Ukhiya upazila Turkish first lady Emine Erdogan said what is happening in Myanmar’s Rakhine State is “tantamount to genocide.” She also affirmed that the government of Turkey will stand beside the Rohingyas.
Escaping from the veritable apocalypse of premeditated brutal annihilation and obliteration on a catastrophic scale of the Rohingya Muslims of Arakan in Myanmar through wholesale slaughter, arson, mass rapes by the military and violent Buddhists—-aptly portrayed as ethnic cleansing bearing a resemblance to genocide— a horrific infiux of over half a million wretched people have been forced to take refuge in Bangladesh.
For generations bearing the brunt of macabre diabolical barbarity and veritable inferno in the front line, the Rohingya Muslims—-a very small unarmed innocent mostly underprivileged civilian minority people of Myanmar pulled through amid subhuman treatment, carnage, persecution, massacre, ethnic cleansing of epic dimension which is no less than genocide.
Long considered a pariah state while under the rule of an oppressive military junta known for its depravity and degeneracy from 1962 to 2011, Myanmar stood accused of gross human rights abuses, prompting international condemnation and sanctions. It was thought that after 2015 elections democratic rights will be ensured to the Rohingya Muslims; but that was not to be. Born in an enlightened family and educated abroad, even septuagenarian President Htin Kyaw of Myanmar too does not see eye to eye with the UN chief, the OIC, the US, the UK, the European Union and the rest of the world as regards the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims.
Now about Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi who has been stripped of her Oxford honour owing to her shameful stance on the Rohingya Muslims. A confirmed Muslim hater Islamophobic after her BBC interview with Mishal Husain, presenter of HARDTALK, last year, Suu Kyi said that she “needs ‘solid evidence’ of violence against Rohingya Muslims.” She has been accused of inciting “anti-Rohingya and anti-aid worker sentiment” on Facebook, including a post accusing the World Food Program of feeding Muslim militants. In another post she displayed images of a dead woman and her three children, describing them as ‘Hindu’ “killed by Muslim militants. [Vide Suu Kyi uses Facebook to fuel hatred towards Rohingyas, Amanda Hodge, South East Asia correspondent, theaustralian.com.au/news/world/myanmars-suu-kyi-uses-facebook-to-fuel-hatred-towards-rohingyas dated August 29, 2017.]
It is worth mentioning that the five-point proposal made by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the United Nations to find solution to the Rohingya crisis is a proper outline to pursue which, of necessity, needs the support of all the UN member states in general and the five UNSC permanent member states in particular—China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The final report of the Advisory Commission chaired by Kofi Annan submitted on 23 August put forward recommendations to surmount the political, socio-economic and humanitarian challenges that currently face Rakhine State. The outcome of over 150 consultations and meetings held by the Advisory Commission since its launch in September 2016, it builds on the Commission’s interim report released in March of this year. It addresses in depth a broad range of structural issues that are impediments to the peace and prosperity of Rakhine State. Several recommendations focus specifically on citizenship verification, rights and equality before the law, documentation, the situation of the internally displaced and freedom of movement, which affect the Muslim population disproportionally.
Myanmar’s Union Minister U Kyaw Tint Swe—an individual without portfolio which explains his mediocre status—formally proposed taking back the Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh but offered no specifics on how the repatriation of such a massive refugee population should take place. It was seemingly a red herring. We do not find any logic as to why Bangladesh proposed a bilateral agreement to facilitate the repatriation process and handed over a draft of the proposed deal the visiting minister of Myanmar. Importantly, going back to the 1992 agreement will be irrational.
Adversaries in international conflict often involve third parties to help them reach agreements. It is common knowledge that in diplomatic negotiations from time to time shuttle diplomacy plays a potential role; for instance Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy secured one last deal in September 1975 with the conclusion of a second Egyptian-Israeli disengagement agreement. For example, at the time of the Oslo Accords in 1993 Norwegian Foreign Affairs Minister Johan Jørgen Holst brokered the Israel-Palestine negotiation. As the source of the conflict is too well-known, now it will be crucial to look beyond to resolve it without delay for the sake of survival of the Rohingya Muslims who were never allowed the status of even underdogs by the government of Burma, now Myanmar.
In sum, the Rohingya Muslim crisis has to be resolved permanently under direct UN supervision through tripartite agreement.


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It’s time Indian newsmen stopped being subservient

Swati Chaturvedi in New Delhi

Members of the fourth estate aren’t supposed to be chums of those in power. They are not expected to keep reassuring the prime minister that “all is well”, though many media persons may be prone to doing this. Some Modi-friendly journalists of late have argued that the “liberal” media targets the prime minister individually. In a highly-centralised, PM-centric regime, this is inevitable. It’s quite simple. The media exists to ask questions, to hold those in power to account. Everything else is just public relations and the government is free to take out full-page advertisements to tom-tom its achievements.
But now we seem to be living in New India, where the role and meaning of the press and government have changed with such astonishing speed in just three and a half years that the rationale of the fourth estate in a democracy is being questioned by the media itself.

Contemptuous of democracy
Consider the following facts. Modi is widely hailed as a “great communicator”, yet ever since he assumed office on May 26, 2014, he has not held a single press conference. A press conference by the prime minister of a democracy is not a favour to be bestowed on what the current government describes as “sickulars” and “pressstitutes” but his or her meta responsibility; a free press has to hold power to account. Modi’s patriarchal, one-way communication via social media and his private radio monologue show Mann Ki Baat is contemptuous of democracy and the role of a free press at worst, and can only be considered evasive at best. Even US President Donald Trump, with his well-advertised disdain for mainstream media, has not done away with regular presidential press conferences at the White House.
Modi is the only leader in the democratic world who has entirely done away with the practice of being asked questions in an official setting. He has not appointed a press advisor in the prime minister’s office, though having one is a fairly standard practice and was followed by even his BJP predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Appointing someone to fill that role would ensure that the press had a single point of contact to raise questions about the various promises made by Modi.
Modi did away with the practice of accommodating journalists on prime ministerial flights abroad, a decision that was widely celebrated by right-wing bhakts who hailed the withdrawal of a “perk”. This was misinformation, because journalists representing various media houses always paid for their own stay abroad and only travelled free on a jumbo aircraft, with a lot of spare capacity, which ferries the prime minister on taxpayers’ money. Being part of the prime minister’s entourage enabled reporters and editors to ask questions – even the man Modi kept attacking as “Maunmohan Singh”, his immediate predecessor, always held an on-board press conference on his flight back, where he would answer any question without prior screening or scrutiny. He also held at least three large, free-for-all press conferences (2004, 2006 and 2010) while in office. This was not privileged “Lutyens access” that the ‘bhakts’ talk about, but a chance to ask important questions on national interest. The president of the US also carries a media contingent on foreign trips and it is considered normal for journalists to get a chance to ask vital questions.

The free press allergy
Modi’s allergy to a free press is well-known and dates back to the time of the Gujarat riots in 2002. He has tried to bypass traditional ways of communication by speaking through social media. But what worked for the chief minister of Gujarat is not necessarily applicable to the Indian prime minister. Activists repeatedly complain of the RTI Act being diluted and petitions filed under it facing a stone wall.  Modi’s allergy to the media has trickled down to his cabinet, which is scared to speak out of turn – or at all.
An RTI petition last November revealed that the central government spent over Rs 1 crore on advertisements featuring Modi. This information was provided by the information and broadcasting ministry and it did not include expenditure on platforms like hoardings, posters, booklets and print advertisements. With 18 months of tenure left and a spate of state elections coming up, expect the spend on “Brand Modi” to triple.
While the media, perceived as adversarial, is frozen out, cheerleaders are swamped with goodies. Modi gave an interview to the Reliance Industries-owned channel, CNN-New18, last year, where he batted friendly questions and held forth expansively. The anchor was so much in awe of the audience he had got that Modi, helpfully, even started asking questions. Interestingly, this was the day that Reliance Jio was launched and Modi appeared as a brand ambassador for the group wearing a jacket in the brand colour (though the government later claimed the company had not taken permission to use the prime minister’s photograph). The interview was also aired the same evening with Modi in the same jacket, giving off the faint whiff of a brand advertorial.

Quid pro quo
While the American media has banded together and decided to make Trump accountable, sections of the Indian media, richly awarded and compensated, have emerged as Modi megaphones. So editors recently exposed in The Wire as possibly brokering foreign postings in the Ministry of Finance continue merrily in their jobs. This would have been a sackable offence and a career-ending move in any other time.  Other channels continue to beat the drum for the government.
Matters recently got so outrageous that India TV’s Hemant Sharma, whose son’s wedding was attended by both Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, was asked to leave by the channel after the Central Bureau of Investigation indicated it wanted to question him in a medical seat racket. The owner and editor of the channel Rajat Sharma, who is also known to be close to the BJP, said that “he and the channel had a zero tolerance for corruption”.
Stories on the government’s poor performance and even Shah’s assets are quietly pulled down by huge media outlets with zero answers, as was done recently when he filed his Rajya Sabha nomination from Gujarat.
Government ministers routinely tweet and re-tweet fake news stories put out by the propaganda websites which have sprung up after the Modi dispensation came into power. Sources say that funding for these sites can be traced back to the corporate backers of the government and are fairly opaque.  Their handles are normally followed by Modi and central ministers. Says a senior minister: “This is a new growth industry for our erstwhile trolls of the IT cell. We have found them jobs either managing the SM accounts of central ministries or working in our propaganda websites. A story there goes straight in to our What’sApp group and is amazing fodder to spread the message”.

Deceptive arguments
Jptive ournalists who are on Modi’s side, so to speak, have been given a plethora of columns, Rajya Sabha seats and board memberships of lucrative companies, such as Ashok Malik, current press advisor to President Ram Nath Kovind, who had earlier been nominated to the India Tobacco Company board by the finance ministry as an independent director. Or take the case of Swapan Dasgupta, now nominated to the Rajya Sabha under the “distinguished quota” as a “writer” category.  Dasgupta, before he entered the Rajya Sabha, had been nominated to the Larsen & Toubro board by the Ministry of Finance.
So while journalists outdo themselves in being their master’s voice, I was rather astonished to see a piece in Open magazine by a former opinion editor of The Hindu anguished by the “Modi haters in the media”. Really? Is asking Modi questions tantamount to heresy, as the piece seems to suggest?
All of us in the media would be failing in our duty if we decide that Modi is a superman and above questioning. And, really, let’s not reduce ourselves to the bandwagon-wallahs in the media who make the deceptive argument that Modi should not be “targeted”. In a government which for the most part looks like a one-man show, he and he alone surely needs to be sharply targeted by the media.

Swati Chaturvedi is a journalist and author based in Delhi. She tweets at @bainjal. The Wire

Comment

Swati Chaturvedi in New Delhi

Members of the fourth estate aren’t supposed to be chums of those in power. They are not expected to keep reassuring the prime minister that “all is well”, though many media persons may be prone to doing this. Some Modi-friendly journalists of late have argued that the “liberal” media targets the prime minister individually. In a highly-centralised, PM-centric regime, this is inevitable. It’s quite simple. The media exists to ask questions, to hold those in power to account. Everything else is just public relations and the government is free to take out full-page advertisements to tom-tom its achievements.
But now we seem to be living in New India, where the role and meaning of the press and government have changed with such astonishing speed in just three and a half years that the rationale of the fourth estate in a democracy is being questioned by the media itself.

Contemptuous of democracy
Consider the following facts. Modi is widely hailed as a “great communicator”, yet ever since he assumed office on May 26, 2014, he has not held a single press conference. A press conference by the prime minister of a democracy is not a favour to be bestowed on what the current government describes as “sickulars” and “pressstitutes” but his or her meta responsibility; a free press has to hold power to account. Modi’s patriarchal, one-way communication via social media and his private radio monologue show Mann Ki Baat is contemptuous of democracy and the role of a free press at worst, and can only be considered evasive at best. Even US President Donald Trump, with his well-advertised disdain for mainstream media, has not done away with regular presidential press conferences at the White House.
Modi is the only leader in the democratic world who has entirely done away with the practice of being asked questions in an official setting. He has not appointed a press advisor in the prime minister’s office, though having one is a fairly standard practice and was followed by even his BJP predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Appointing someone to fill that role would ensure that the press had a single point of contact to raise questions about the various promises made by Modi.
Modi did away with the practice of accommodating journalists on prime ministerial flights abroad, a decision that was widely celebrated by right-wing bhakts who hailed the withdrawal of a “perk”. This was misinformation, because journalists representing various media houses always paid for their own stay abroad and only travelled free on a jumbo aircraft, with a lot of spare capacity, which ferries the prime minister on taxpayers’ money. Being part of the prime minister’s entourage enabled reporters and editors to ask questions – even the man Modi kept attacking as “Maunmohan Singh”, his immediate predecessor, always held an on-board press conference on his flight back, where he would answer any question without prior screening or scrutiny. He also held at least three large, free-for-all press conferences (2004, 2006 and 2010) while in office. This was not privileged “Lutyens access” that the ‘bhakts’ talk about, but a chance to ask important questions on national interest. The president of the US also carries a media contingent on foreign trips and it is considered normal for journalists to get a chance to ask vital questions.

The free press allergy
Modi’s allergy to a free press is well-known and dates back to the time of the Gujarat riots in 2002. He has tried to bypass traditional ways of communication by speaking through social media. But what worked for the chief minister of Gujarat is not necessarily applicable to the Indian prime minister. Activists repeatedly complain of the RTI Act being diluted and petitions filed under it facing a stone wall.  Modi’s allergy to the media has trickled down to his cabinet, which is scared to speak out of turn – or at all.
An RTI petition last November revealed that the central government spent over Rs 1 crore on advertisements featuring Modi. This information was provided by the information and broadcasting ministry and it did not include expenditure on platforms like hoardings, posters, booklets and print advertisements. With 18 months of tenure left and a spate of state elections coming up, expect the spend on “Brand Modi” to triple.
While the media, perceived as adversarial, is frozen out, cheerleaders are swamped with goodies. Modi gave an interview to the Reliance Industries-owned channel, CNN-New18, last year, where he batted friendly questions and held forth expansively. The anchor was so much in awe of the audience he had got that Modi, helpfully, even started asking questions. Interestingly, this was the day that Reliance Jio was launched and Modi appeared as a brand ambassador for the group wearing a jacket in the brand colour (though the government later claimed the company had not taken permission to use the prime minister’s photograph). The interview was also aired the same evening with Modi in the same jacket, giving off the faint whiff of a brand advertorial.

Quid pro quo
While the American media has banded together and decided to make Trump accountable, sections of the Indian media, richly awarded and compensated, have emerged as Modi megaphones. So editors recently exposed in The Wire as possibly brokering foreign postings in the Ministry of Finance continue merrily in their jobs. This would have been a sackable offence and a career-ending move in any other time.  Other channels continue to beat the drum for the government.
Matters recently got so outrageous that India TV’s Hemant Sharma, whose son’s wedding was attended by both Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, was asked to leave by the channel after the Central Bureau of Investigation indicated it wanted to question him in a medical seat racket. The owner and editor of the channel Rajat Sharma, who is also known to be close to the BJP, said that “he and the channel had a zero tolerance for corruption”.
Stories on the government’s poor performance and even Shah’s assets are quietly pulled down by huge media outlets with zero answers, as was done recently when he filed his Rajya Sabha nomination from Gujarat.
Government ministers routinely tweet and re-tweet fake news stories put out by the propaganda websites which have sprung up after the Modi dispensation came into power. Sources say that funding for these sites can be traced back to the corporate backers of the government and are fairly opaque.  Their handles are normally followed by Modi and central ministers. Says a senior minister: “This is a new growth industry for our erstwhile trolls of the IT cell. We have found them jobs either managing the SM accounts of central ministries or working in our propaganda websites. A story there goes straight in to our What’sApp group and is amazing fodder to spread the message”.

Deceptive arguments
Jptive ournalists who are on Modi’s side, so to speak, have been given a plethora of columns, Rajya Sabha seats and board memberships of lucrative companies, such as Ashok Malik, current press advisor to President Ram Nath Kovind, who had earlier been nominated to the India Tobacco Company board by the finance ministry as an independent director. Or take the case of Swapan Dasgupta, now nominated to the Rajya Sabha under the “distinguished quota” as a “writer” category.  Dasgupta, before he entered the Rajya Sabha, had been nominated to the Larsen & Toubro board by the Ministry of Finance.
So while journalists outdo themselves in being their master’s voice, I was rather astonished to see a piece in Open magazine by a former opinion editor of The Hindu anguished by the “Modi haters in the media”. Really? Is asking Modi questions tantamount to heresy, as the piece seems to suggest?
All of us in the media would be failing in our duty if we decide that Modi is a superman and above questioning. And, really, let’s not reduce ourselves to the bandwagon-wallahs in the media who make the deceptive argument that Modi should not be “targeted”. In a government which for the most part looks like a one-man show, he and he alone surely needs to be sharply targeted by the media.

Swati Chaturvedi is a journalist and author based in Delhi. She tweets at @bainjal. The Wire


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 VIEW POINT

TK. 73,000 CRORE SIPHONED OFF IN 2014
Money laundering and default loans are threatening economy

A. M. K. Chowdhury

THE people of Bangladesh are quite familiar with the white-collar crime called money laundering, a nonviolent crime committed for financial gain. Money laundering is the generic term used to describe the process by which criminals disguise the original ownership and control of the proceeds of criminal conduct by making such proceeds appear to have derived from a legitimate source.
In August this year State  Minister for Finance and Planning M.A. Mannan told Parliament that Bangladesh Bank would probe the siphoning  off some  Tk.73,000  crore in reply to a question of the Jatiya Party MP Pir Fazlur Rahman.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told Parliament that her government has got a report  from the US based Global Intelligence Network (GIN) on the siphoning off Tk. 1200 (twelve hundred) crore to 12 (twelve) countries by the family members of Ziaur Rahman. The government is investigating the alleged money laundering. Appropriate actions will be taken against them after scrutinising the facts through the investigation. The PM further said the government has already brought back some of the  money siphoned off by Khaleda’s youngest son Arafat Rahman Koko. The government has taken some steps regarding the matter. “I can’t tell everything for the sake of ongoing investigation.” If allegation is proved then appropriate action will be taken. (the Daily Naya Diganta, dated September 14, 2017).
Earlier the PM while addressing a discussion organized by  the Dhaka City unit of Awami League (AL)  marking the 65th founding anniversary of the party at Suhrawardi Uddayan alleged that Begum Khaleda Zia’s son  Tarique Rahman laundered thousands of Taka from the country. It is the AL which brought back the laundered money from abroad. All money stashed away in Swiss banks will be brought back soon. (The Independent, dated June 28, 2014).

Bangladesh Bank reserve heist
Bangladesh Bank (BB) reserve heist which involved $101 million (Taka 800 crore) was the biggest financial scams in the banking sector during the AL –led government that the country has ever seen. The cyber thieves stole the money from BB foreign currency account with  the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Almost the entire amount was transferred  to the Philippines banking system and small amount of it to Sri Lanka by suspected Chinese hackers on February 5, 2016. However, the Philippine government has returned $15 million so far. (The Daily Naya Diganta, dated April 17, 2017).
The government would seek help from the central bank of China and its law enforcement agencies to recover the entire stolen money which was lost in the  BB reserve heist. (The Daily Naya Diganta, dated August 24, 2017).
Finance Mnister (FM) AMA Muhith said he would make the BB reserve heist report after the lawsuit in Philippines is settled. A panel led by former governor Mohammad Farashuddin submitted its findings to FM almost a year ago, but the government did not make it public. The money was sent to four accounts with false names at a Manila branch of the  Philippines Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) before vanishing. An anti –money laundering body filed charges against five RCBC officials in connection with the theft. (The Daily Observer, dated August 6, 2017).

$34.63 million of $101 million recovered
The FM said of the total $101 million, the government has  so far recovered $34.63 million.. Of the total money $20 million was reimbursed for Sri Lanka to the  Federal Reserve Bank, New York.Of the  $81  million that went to the Philippines, $14.63 million has been deposited to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) in BB’s account, the FM added. Bangladesh did not get back $66.37 million as yet. “Legal steps are underway in Philippines for recovering the rest of the stolen money,” the FM said. (The Daily Observer, dated June 21, 2017)
An official of the United States of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) engaged in Philippines claimed that the online heist of $81 million from the central bank account  of  BB with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in February, 2016 was orchestrated by a state. Though he did not mention the name of the state, he hinted that it was not Bangladesh, but  an authoritarian country in the Southeast Asia. The FBI has been leading an international investigation into the heist, in which hackers breached Bangladesh Bank’s system and used SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) messaging network to order the transfer of nearly $1 billion from its account at the New York Fed. (The Daily Observer, dated March 30, 2017).

Default loan is creating alarming situation
Default loan is creating alarming situation for Bangladesh’s banking sector. In five years to the end of FY 2016 the amount of total default loan in the banks reached to Tk.70,430 crore including Tk. 11,237 crore defaulted in July – March of the current  fiscal year. A sum of Tk.12,350 crore were rescheduled in 2014, Tk.19140 crore in 2015 and Tk. 15,420 crore in last year. (The Daily Observer, dated August 10, 2017)
State  Minister for Finance and Planning M.A.Mannan told Parliament that Bangladesh Bank will probe the alleged siphoning  off some  Tk.73,000  crore. “The  central bank will take steps against the looting or siphoning off the money, and the government will provide all out  cooperation so that we can prevent the rise in   such  activities in the future ,” he  said while replying to a supplementary question from Jatiya Party MP (Member of Parliament) Pir Fazlur Rahman.

Tk. 73,000 crore siphoned off in  2014
Citing a newspaper report, Fazlur Rahman said some Tk. 73,000 crore was siphoned off the country in  2014 as per statistics of Washington – based Global Financial Integrity (GFI) and wanted  to know what steps the government is taking to prevent the crime. (The Daily Observer, dated May 4, 2017)
Nearly 80  percent of  the money laundering conducted from Bangladesh is done under the cover of export – import business. The Money laundering in committed through over – invoicing in the imports and under – invoicing in exports.
Money laundering is a big threat for our economy. Effective measures should be taken to bring back the laundered money and persons who are  involved in it should be brought to the book.
The banks play a great role in the economic development of a country. Default loans should be reduced and granting of loans should be considered properly to ensure smooth running of the banks.

Comment

A. M. K. Chowdhury

THE people of Bangladesh are quite familiar with the white-collar crime called money laundering, a nonviolent crime committed for financial gain. Money laundering is the generic term used to describe the process by which criminals disguise the original ownership and control of the proceeds of criminal conduct by making such proceeds appear to have derived from a legitimate source.
In August this year State  Minister for Finance and Planning M.A. Mannan told Parliament that Bangladesh Bank would probe the siphoning  off some  Tk.73,000  crore in reply to a question of the Jatiya Party MP Pir Fazlur Rahman.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told Parliament that her government has got a report  from the US based Global Intelligence Network (GIN) on the siphoning off Tk. 1200 (twelve hundred) crore to 12 (twelve) countries by the family members of Ziaur Rahman. The government is investigating the alleged money laundering. Appropriate actions will be taken against them after scrutinising the facts through the investigation. The PM further said the government has already brought back some of the  money siphoned off by Khaleda’s youngest son Arafat Rahman Koko. The government has taken some steps regarding the matter. “I can’t tell everything for the sake of ongoing investigation.” If allegation is proved then appropriate action will be taken. (the Daily Naya Diganta, dated September 14, 2017).
Earlier the PM while addressing a discussion organized by  the Dhaka City unit of Awami League (AL)  marking the 65th founding anniversary of the party at Suhrawardi Uddayan alleged that Begum Khaleda Zia’s son  Tarique Rahman laundered thousands of Taka from the country. It is the AL which brought back the laundered money from abroad. All money stashed away in Swiss banks will be brought back soon. (The Independent, dated June 28, 2014).

Bangladesh Bank reserve heist
Bangladesh Bank (BB) reserve heist which involved $101 million (Taka 800 crore) was the biggest financial scams in the banking sector during the AL –led government that the country has ever seen. The cyber thieves stole the money from BB foreign currency account with  the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Almost the entire amount was transferred  to the Philippines banking system and small amount of it to Sri Lanka by suspected Chinese hackers on February 5, 2016. However, the Philippine government has returned $15 million so far. (The Daily Naya Diganta, dated April 17, 2017).
The government would seek help from the central bank of China and its law enforcement agencies to recover the entire stolen money which was lost in the  BB reserve heist. (The Daily Naya Diganta, dated August 24, 2017).
Finance Mnister (FM) AMA Muhith said he would make the BB reserve heist report after the lawsuit in Philippines is settled. A panel led by former governor Mohammad Farashuddin submitted its findings to FM almost a year ago, but the government did not make it public. The money was sent to four accounts with false names at a Manila branch of the  Philippines Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) before vanishing. An anti –money laundering body filed charges against five RCBC officials in connection with the theft. (The Daily Observer, dated August 6, 2017).

$34.63 million of $101 million recovered
The FM said of the total $101 million, the government has  so far recovered $34.63 million.. Of the total money $20 million was reimbursed for Sri Lanka to the  Federal Reserve Bank, New York.Of the  $81  million that went to the Philippines, $14.63 million has been deposited to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) in BB’s account, the FM added. Bangladesh did not get back $66.37 million as yet. “Legal steps are underway in Philippines for recovering the rest of the stolen money,” the FM said. (The Daily Observer, dated June 21, 2017)
An official of the United States of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) engaged in Philippines claimed that the online heist of $81 million from the central bank account  of  BB with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in February, 2016 was orchestrated by a state. Though he did not mention the name of the state, he hinted that it was not Bangladesh, but  an authoritarian country in the Southeast Asia. The FBI has been leading an international investigation into the heist, in which hackers breached Bangladesh Bank’s system and used SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) messaging network to order the transfer of nearly $1 billion from its account at the New York Fed. (The Daily Observer, dated March 30, 2017).

Default loan is creating alarming situation
Default loan is creating alarming situation for Bangladesh’s banking sector. In five years to the end of FY 2016 the amount of total default loan in the banks reached to Tk.70,430 crore including Tk. 11,237 crore defaulted in July – March of the current  fiscal year. A sum of Tk.12,350 crore were rescheduled in 2014, Tk.19140 crore in 2015 and Tk. 15,420 crore in last year. (The Daily Observer, dated August 10, 2017)
State  Minister for Finance and Planning M.A.Mannan told Parliament that Bangladesh Bank will probe the alleged siphoning  off some  Tk.73,000  crore. “The  central bank will take steps against the looting or siphoning off the money, and the government will provide all out  cooperation so that we can prevent the rise in   such  activities in the future ,” he  said while replying to a supplementary question from Jatiya Party MP (Member of Parliament) Pir Fazlur Rahman.

Tk. 73,000 crore siphoned off in  2014
Citing a newspaper report, Fazlur Rahman said some Tk. 73,000 crore was siphoned off the country in  2014 as per statistics of Washington – based Global Financial Integrity (GFI) and wanted  to know what steps the government is taking to prevent the crime. (The Daily Observer, dated May 4, 2017)
Nearly 80  percent of  the money laundering conducted from Bangladesh is done under the cover of export – import business. The Money laundering in committed through over – invoicing in the imports and under – invoicing in exports.
Money laundering is a big threat for our economy. Effective measures should be taken to bring back the laundered money and persons who are  involved in it should be brought to the book.
The banks play a great role in the economic development of a country. Default loans should be reduced and granting of loans should be considered properly to ensure smooth running of the banks.


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