What we need is a thorough drive against corruption in all sectors
Organized crime exists in every country of the world, though the wherewithal may differ.
Beyond the sensationalism of the current crack-down on casinos in Bangladesh lies the phenomenon of organized extortion that is so deeply entrenched that solutions defy the imagination. It has come about due to years of neglect and the pretense that it either doesn’t exist or is too big a hornets nest to disturb.
Perhaps that is about to change. The problem is that the antiquated laws under which perpetrators will ultimately be tried are both inadequate and insufficient to be a deterrent. Combined action by the agencies is the obvious way, but as has been proved in the western and indeed eastern world, the effect has not been productive. So when the media reports that those arrested in connection with the casino cases are revealing names of various persons the question is whether this will lead to those persons too being brought to book.
The worrying part is that, among the names being bandied, include those of members of parliament and law enforcement agencies. Some policemen have admitted they knew of the happenings but stopped short of why they didn’t take action. This leads one to believe that either they were in on the take or prevented by the powers that be.
And in the midst of it all, the drive by the Anti-Corruption Commission in picking up individuals accused of smaller scale graft is beginning to pale.
The absence of one coordinated body composed of the various agencies taking timely action has been strongly felt, leading to an overall apathy among the citizenry. Yet there are so many avenues to check illegal amassing of wealth and opulence. One such way forward is the move by the National Board of Revenue to probe those who are buying luxury branded cars. The registration authorities Bangladesh Road Transport Authority have the ability to check for income tax returns of those seeking to register their vehicles, particularly expensive motorcycles being authorized for young people who will have to prove they have the means to buy such vehicles.
Businessmen have long been complaining about graft as they go about their business, and it is preposterous to even consider that a Rapid Action Battalion construction tender landed up with the company of one of those recently apprehended. Once again contractors aiming for business must be checked for payment of income tax and VAT beyond mere registration papers that say little. As is well known, there are 3.2 million TIN holders in a country of 160 million only 2.2 million submit their tax returns.
When it comes to organized crime, law enforcers are limited to apprehending stray cases of drug smuggling and arms peddling whereas there have been several instances of arms display in public by various groups. Matters aren’t made any better by the exorbitant and relaxed lifestyle of leaders of different organizations, ranging from the type of homes they live in to the expensive vehicles they use. Cracking the mafia is no easy task but the prime minister appears to have taken the bit between her teeth.
How far she will go to rein in the tentacles of organized crime is to be seen but the beginning has been a big shake that turned the apple cart. From the borders to the airport, villages to town, organized crime exists in a big way.
Nothing will happen overnight -- but then, there’s never a better time to begin than now.
Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.