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M O N E Y : L A U N D E R I N G

Money laundering?!?!
That's what has been India's ludicrous response for so many years

   India again seems to be gaining focus to fight against a menace called money laundering. The country established its Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in 2004, responsible for scrutinising the suspected financial transactions to stop money laundering and similar crimes. Realising the fact that money laundering rackets like hawala, smuggling et al involve foreign operatives, the cabinet committee is likely to now approve sharing of information with foreign countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. But most importantly, India – after years of ludicrous seat of the pants behaviour – is trying to belatedly gain membership of the Egmont Group, a body that was established as an anti-money laundering body in 1995, and which now has 101 countries and their FIUs cooperating with each other, both formally and informally.

However, surprisingly, the failure of anti-money laundering moves will keep haunting India. Thousands of residents, Indian smugglers and criminals have unauthorised bank account in foreign shores. There are an estimated 3,000 international hawala brokers. Worldwide, allegedly, $200 billion worth of hawala trade takes place in a day. Millions of illegal money and Gold are kept in safe havens – Switzerland, Andorra, Cayman Islands, to name a few. These unauthorised funds are allegedly used for funding criminal, terrorism and narcotic activities.

It is quite unbelievable that Indian authorities had to wait for so long to accept that they also require membership of organisations like the Egmont Group. Perhaps money laundering was never a priority issue for the authorities. Even the current move lacks any orientation on how such a membership will be used pro-actively. But as they say, criticisms can come and go, for the Indian government, it’s better late than never...

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