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Country For Speculators

March 24, 2016

Filipino press deserves Bangladesh’s highest civilian award more than any Bangladeshi. Thanks to them one fine morning we knew portion of our hard-earned forex reserve was stolen and ended up in the Filipino casinos.

Bangladesh Bank (BB), and government, remained tight-lipped for more than one month about this sensational stealing. The official explanation still revolves round a group of hackers who installed a “malware” into BB computer system and managed to get away with $81 million compromising global interbank financial transaction network (SWIFT). The explanation captures indeed the script of a Hollywood thriller to a T.

If the investigators find conclusive evidence that “hacking” had really taken place then it will be one of the biggest electronic financial robberies in the world.

Long before the investigators wrap up their work, a group of opinion-makers are trying to sell their opinions like chances are slim that Bangladesh will get back the stolen money or even if it somehow gets back the money it will take at least a couple of years.

Frank pieces of advice are aplenty. World Bank’s country economist publicly said : “If Bangladesh wants , World Bank is more than willing to help getting back the money in light of WB’s Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR)”. For the moment, it seems this earnest piece of advice has fallen on deaf ears. Or, govt has made up its mind to turn a blind eye to any genuine initiative to bring back our money.

It was not a coincidence that Bangladesh’s financial institutions came under attack from foreign individuals. Govt has to take a fair share of responsibility for inviting such attacks at our soil.

The share market debacle did not augur well for a good future for our financial sector. Had we brought the culprits of that scam to book, we could have, I believe, prevented many subsequent financial scams. Frequently occurring financial scams are the metastasis of a disease that has gone worst from bad. Treating the metastasis will not cure the disease. We need to look deeper.

Due to lack of accountability and transparency at the highest level of our government, we left open our doors for these unwanted guests at financial institutions. Numerous conspiracy theories can be floated but the fact is that they dared to do such misadventures due to our mismanagement and inability to bridge the political differences. Someone showed them the way and they did their job. By remaining silent about the alleged hacking, BB ran the gauntlet of all the quarters. Resigned governor told the press that any disclosure of the news would alert the thieves and they would get away with the money destroying all the evidences left behind.That was exactly what happened though he held back the news for one month.

The delay produced ample time for the thieves to convert the money into gambling chips and evade many legal restrictions. American Supreme Court Justice Louis D Brandeis wrote a brilliant article titled “What Publicity Can Do” back in 1913. In that article he underscored how transparency can be ensured through dissemination of information. He wrote:

“Publicity is justly commended as remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient police man.”

But government is not treading along that path. Instead, it opted to silence all who knew about the matter and kept a heavy lid on the sources of information. Take for instance the case of IT expert Tanvir Hassan Zoha who has just been released. He used to work with various law-enforcing agencies. As he is explaining things for general audiences and went far to say that the database administrator of BB could not avoid responsibilities, Govt denied all ties with him and abducted him for five days so that he cannot feed people further information with his insights and knowledge.

BB is prone to this kind of activities. Earlier in September 2015, a State Bank of India employee had been caught red-handed while stealing money from bank’s vault. Having received a complaint letter from BB, the bank authority discharged him from duties. Since then, BB however did little to ramp up its security.

The hacker theory further gained ground by the remark of a sacked deputy governor. Without conducting proper investigation, as soon as the news broke out she told the press that a malicious “malware” did the stealing and today’s “malware” is capable of removing all its digital foot prints.This kind of preposterous remark is an attempt not to take any responsibility.

The culture of less transparency and culture of impunity that prevail here for so long actually bred this series of financial scams.

Unless we change this culture completely, more impending calamities may be awaiting. By the time we wake up to the fact that the disease has gone malignant, it will be too late. We will find ourselves sink into endless scams.

The Filipinos are doing a far better job than us in ensuring accountability. Despite incurring the criticisms of world community for being a safe haven of laundered money, they are holding a hearing at the senate and probing the matter so that the responsible persons get their due punishments.

Unlike their Filipino counterparts, Bangladeshi politicians failed to demonstrate the same level of seriousness. Rather, they used the issue to settle down old scores. While others are showing great concern for our money, politicians here are speculating. What do you expect from politicians who care little about people’s opinion? They are supposed to be guided by people’s opinion, but they are more interested to shape it. No wonder that ours have become a country for speculators.

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From → Analysis

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