Bangladesh lost $50bn to trade-related illicit financial flows in six years: report

Bangladesh lost nearly $50 billion in six years to trade-related illicit financial flows, according to data analysed by Global Financial Integrity.

Published : 17 Dec 2021, 05:24 PM
Updated : 17 Dec 2021, 06:35 PM

Converted to the local currency as per Friday’s rate, the sum amounts to Tk 4.25 trillion. The size of Bangladesh’s national budget for fiscal 2021-22 was Tk 6 trillion.   

GFI, a Washington-based think-tank, calculated data from 135 countries from 2009 to 2018, but statistics from Bangladesh were not available for the years 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

It documented the international problem of “trade misinvoicing”—when importers and exporters deliberately falsify the declared value of goods on the invoices they submit to their customs authorities in order to illicitly transfer money across international borders, evade tax and/or customs duties, launder the proceeds of criminal activity, circumvent currency controls, and hide profits in offshore bank accounts.

By over-pricing or under-pricing the declared value of imports or exports, traders illicitly move wealth across international borders by hiding it within the regular payments for commerce in the international trading system, GFI said in the report published on Thursday.

Trade misinvoicing activity represents a major global challenge on two fronts: for customs and tax authorities around the world, particularly in developing countries, trade misinvoicing reflects the loss of billions of dollars in uncollected trade-related tax revenues every year; and for law enforcement, trade misinvoicing facilitates illicit financial flows throughout the global economy.

The gaps between the declared value of goods on the invoices in Bangladesh stood at $5.2 billion in 2008, $6.9 billion in 2010, $8.8 billion in 2011, $7.65 billion in 2012, $9.35 billion in 2013, and the highest, $11.9 billion in 2015.

The countries with the largest average value gaps identified over the 10-year period include China at $250.2 billion, Poland $47.7 billion, Mexico $35.4 billion, India $30.7 billion and Russia at $30.5 billion.

Bangladesh’s average value gap in the six years was $8.27 billion.

China was the country with the largest value gap, by far, for each year over the entire ten-year period, while countries such as Mexico, Russia, Poland, Malaysia, India, Thailand, Brazil, Turkey and Indonesia also frequently registered as having been among the top ten largest average value gaps in terms of US Dollars over the period.

In order to identify a country’s potentially misinvoiced imports/exports, GFI conducted a value gap analysis by examining official data submitted by governments each year to the United Nations Comtrade database.

The analysis is intended to help developing countries understand the magnitude of their misinvoicing activity – in dollar terms and as a percentage of total trade – in order to highlight potentially massive revenue losses due to uncollected taxes and duties.