By UCA News
A central bank official has said there will be an investigation into US allegations that private banks in Bangladesh were involved in financing Islamic terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda.
Following a US Senate hearing last week, Bangladesh Bank said it would look into whether the Bangladesh division of HSBC provided dollars and banking services to two domestic lenders linked to Jamaat-ul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), a militant Islamist group.
“We are closely monitoring the situation and we will launch a probe into the allegations,” said Tanvir Ahmed, a central bank spokesman. “If we find the banks guilty we will take action according to our banking regulations.”
The year-long US investigation found that Islami Bank of Bangladesh, which is part-owned by the Al Rajhi group in Saudi Arabia, offered services to JMB leaders Abdur Rahman and Siddique-Ul-Islam in 2005 and 2006.
After allegedly orchestrating a series of bomb blasts across Bangladesh on August 17, 2005, the two men were arrested the following year and convicted of killing two district judges. They were then executed in 2007.
The central bank has found Islami Bank of Bangladesh guilty of money laundering on three previous occasions resulting in warnings and fines.
Another domestic lender, Social Islami Bank (SIBL), is accused of being partly owned by International Islamic Relief Organization and Lajnat Al-Birr Al Islamiyya, both of which are linked to Islamic terrorist groups.
Both banks have denied any impropriety.
“Media reports claiming Islami Bank [of Bangladesh] has been involved in terrorist financing are false,” said its executive vice-president Ataur Rahman. “The bank is a nationally and internationally recognized commercial bank and it has never financed terrorists because it is against the teachings of Islam.”
He denied any “suspicious” dealings with HSBC, adding that Al Rajhi of Saudi Arabia did not hold a stake in Islami Bank of Bangladesh at present.
SIBL’s vice-president of communications, Samia Islam, similarly responded that the bank was in compliance with banking regulations and had never been linked to any financial institution dealing with terrorist groups.
SIBL has “repeatedly asked” International Islamic Relief Organization and Lajnat Al-Birr Al Islamiyya to sell their stakes in the bank, a process which was ongoing, she added.
A spokesman for HSBC Bangladesh, Iftekhar Hasan, admitted the bank had made mistakes.
“In some places we have failed to scrutinize the identity of customers and thus didn’t satisfy the authorities as well,” he said. “We apologize for any wrongdoing and have a great lesson to learn from this.”