The illegal hundi business has been thriving in recent years through the use of mobile banking, raising concerns. Amidst this backdrop, the Noakhali Police’s Crime Investigation Division (CID) has apprehended two individuals, Shahadat Hossain (23) and Bolai Chandra Das (26), including a bKash agent, for their involvement in hundi operations in the Chatkhil area of Noakhali. The arrested individuals are reported to have connections with hundi operators in various countries, including Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Hong Kong. These details have been obtained from reliable sources.
According to sources, several bKash agents have previously been arrested on allegations of involvement in illicit hundi businesses. In September of last year (2022), a bKash agent named Md. Abul Hasan was apprehended by the CID in Shahjadpur, the capital city from Dhaka. He was found to be engaged in illegal hundi activities using his bKash agent position. In January 2018, eight bKash agents were also arrested by the CID from various districts, including Rajshahi, Pabna, and Mymensingh.
According to sources from Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU), 31 bKash agents suspected of involvement in hundi activities have had their accounts frozen and their agent contracts terminated. Additionally, the organization is currently scrutinizing reports of 34 transactions related to hundi. The BFIU has forwarded 11 intelligence reports on hundi and trade-based money laundering to the relevant law enforcement agencies for necessary actions.
In addition, reports on two suspicious transactions related to hundi have been forwarded to the respective law enforcement agencies for implementation. Simultaneously, the BFIU has recommended taking measures against 51 websites, 12 social media pages, and 15 apps involved in illegal forex, betting, and cryptocurrency transactions. It has been learned that 2intelligence reports on currency smuggling and trade misinvoicing have been sent to the CID. Furthermore, 9 suspicious reports on the same matter are currently under review.
The BFIU has revealed that a total of 218 remittances, amounting to over a billion taka, have entered the country through legitimate channels following moral scrutiny and unblocking. According to the information from Financial Intelligence, these accounts have received remittances totaling 1 crore 1 lakh 86 thousand 391 taka through valid channels.
Due to the vigilance of the BFIU in mobile banking, the image of hundi business has been tarnished in agent banking. Currently, the BFIU has conducted an analysis of certain accounts, where the existence of hundi transactions has been identified by the institution.
It was also known, a high-ranking official of the BFIU informed Orthosongbad that Bangladesh Financial Intelligence is working towards shutting down hundi operations, cryptocurrency, and gambling sites.
Additionally, Shamshuddin Haider Dalim, a communication officer at bKash, said that there is no opportunity to engage in hundi business through bKash. bKash operates only within Bangladesh and does not work outside the country.
Agents are our business partners. They are not only agents of bKash but also agents of other operators. Agents primarily work for 4-5 MFS companies. It wouldn’t be accurate to simply label them as bKash agents because it is not possible to know who their actual agents are. In addition, many agents are unaware that it involves hundi transactions. The individuals arrested by the CID are MFS agents. Due to bKash being a well-known brand, they are referred to as bKash agents.
He further states that the measures taken in various illegal transactions are based on the information we provide. bKash regularly generates reports on suspicious transactions based on our own initiatives and submits them to the Bangladesh Bank and BFIU (Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit). However, the investigation is conducted based on the information we provide.
Shamshuddin Haider Dalim says that now there are significant transactions taking place through bKash. ‘Now, do I want people to engage in illegal activities using my platform?’ In Bangladesh, there are around 10 lakh agents who are agents of both bKash and other operators. Among them, we inform the Bangladesh Bank and BFIU about any suspicious transaction based on our provided information. We take action against those who are found guilty. We have also canceled the agency of several such agents. We do this in our own interest and as part of regular practice.
bKash has recently entered into a brand partnership agreement with the Argentine Football Association (AFA). As a result, the mobile financial service provider from Bangladesh has become a sponsor of the Argentine football team. The official announcement of this collaboration has also been made on the AFA website. Recognizing the immense popularity of the Argentine football team in the Asian region, the marketing department of the association has taken steps to expand their brand presence in this region by partnering with bKash. While it is known that bKash will sponsor the Argentine football team, further details about their collaboration with Lionel Messi’s team have not been disclosed. Additionally, the sponsorship of a Bangladeshi team by a foreign entity has sparked debate amidst the financial crisis faced by the national football team of Bangladesh.
Tipu Munshi Emphasizes Joint Effort for Commodity Price Control Amid Global Instabilities
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi underscored the pivotal role of controlling commodity prices, emphasizing its special importance in the upcoming general election as a key aspect of the Awami League’s manifesto. While addressing concerns about global challenges impacting price control, the minister pointed out the government’s successful efforts to maintain reasonable prices, acknowledging the limitations imposed by the global context.
Speaking at an event organized by the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection and Debate for Democracy at the Bangladesh Film Development Corporation (BFDC), Tipu Munshi provided insights into the government’s commitment to ensuring affordable daily necessities for low-income individuals. He highlighted ongoing programs aligned with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s directives, aimed at providing essential items at lower prices to mitigate the hardships faced by the economically vulnerable.
The minister acknowledged the abnormal increase in product prices globally due to factors such as the Russia-Ukraine war and the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. Tipu Munshi stressed the significance of a collaborative effort between the public and private sectors in effectively managing and controlling commodity prices, especially in the face of global uncertainties.
Concluding his remarks, Tipu Munshi emphasized the collective strength of consumers, stating that neither the government nor any syndicate holds ultimate power; rather, the united force of the common people is the most influential. He called on consumers to remain vigilant, asserting that no force can endure if the public remains united.
FBCCI Urges Govt to Extend Income Tax Return Deadline Amidst Implementation Challenges
In a letter signed by FBCCI president Mahbubul Alam, the trade body emphasized that taxpayers faced challenges due to the recent implementation of the new Income Tax Act-2023. The complexities introduced by the new tax regulations, coupled with delayed releases of income tax circulars, have created difficulties for individuals and businesses in preparing their tax returns within the stipulated timeframe.
The FBCCI’s letter further highlighted that various trade bodies have approached them, expressing concerns about the limited time provided for taxpayers to comply. Additionally, the ongoing political situation and the imminent general election have contributed to the constraints faced by taxpayers in meeting the November 30 deadline.
Under the provisions of the new Income Tax Act, there is a mandatory requirement for taxpayers to submit their income tax returns within the designated income tax day. The FBCCI, in light of Section 334 of the Income Tax Act-2023, has formally requested the NBR to extend the deadline for the submission of income tax returns until December 31, 2023.
The FBCCI’s appeal underscores the need for flexibility in recognizing the unique challenges posed by the current circumstances and aims to provide relief to taxpayers who require additional time to comply with the new tax regulations.
Singapore’s GDP growth in Q3 driven by construction and services sectors.
The third-quarter performance of Singapore’s economy exceeded expectations, registering a robust 1.1 percent expansion. This growth was propelled by the construction industry and the services sector, particularly tourism. The data from the trade ministry surpassed the anticipated 0.8 percent and marked a significant improvement from the preceding three months.
In response to the positive momentum, officials have revised the full-year forecast for 2023. They now anticipate the economy to grow by 1.0 percent, adjusting from the earlier estimated range of 0.5-1.5 percent. The decision is influenced by improved performance in the US economy since the previous forecast in August. However, officials cautioned that inflation-fighting interest rate hikes may pose challenges in the coming months.
The ministry projected that growth in the US and eurozone would moderate due to the cumulative effects of monetary policy tightening. Similarly, China’s growth is expected to decelerate further due to ongoing weaknesses in its property sector, domestic consumption, and subdued external demand. Despite sluggish global demand for electronics, one of Singapore’s major exports, there are indications that the downturn may be stabilizing.
Continued growth in tourism arrivals is anticipated to support aviation and tourism-related businesses. Taking into account the overall performance of Singapore’s economy in the first three quarters of the year, along with the latest external and domestic developments, the GDP growth forecast for 2023 has been narrowed to around 1.0 percent.
Looking ahead to 2024, the ministry foresees a growth range of 1.0-3.0 percent. However, potential downside risks include high inflation and an escalation of conflicts, such as those between Israel and Hamas or the war in Ukraine. The confluence of these factors could impact business and consumer sentiments, leading to a potential slowdown in global growth and trade.
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