If a tree didn’t fall in the woods, could a laundryman still make money?

Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has charged 51 people, FCA - TIMBERincluding the Managing Director and President of a tree planting co-operative in connection with laundering BDT4,000cr – a staggering USD515m in funds embezzled from a tree planting scheme.

The story in the Daily Star alleges links to a number of illegal activities which would contribute to the money laundering charges, including:

They funds were generated by an investment scam. The group allegedly conned BDT2,433cr (USD312m) from 1.75m investors by selling 6.18bn tree saplings under the tree plantation project. In reality, the group planted only 3.2m trees. It looks like the investors, rather than being eco-warriors striving to create a green and airy Bangladesh, were lured by the promise of unrealistically high returns on investments. 

Once the money was paid to the a tree plantation cooperative, the accused allegedly syphoned it out of the books and records under the guise of paying salaries, undisclosed fees for services rendered, commissions and other staff related costs. They transferred the funds to employee’s bank accounts and to accounts of 20 other companies within the group.

The group was was already under investigation for illegal banking, according to the press, and this could mean they were using hawala. The hawala informal banking network is alive and well in South Asia and is used by businesses to send and receive funds domestically and internationally.

The funds were laundered outside of Bangladesh, according to charge sheets quoted in the press. BDT100cr (USD12m) was allegedly sent to Hong Kong to pay for the import of electrical and electronic goods, cosmetics and agro products, and leasing an aircraft. investigators claim the goods were never bought and no aircraft were leased in connection with this transaction. 

So far, five of the group are behind bars and the other 46 are reportedly on the lam.

Source: The Daily Star

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