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Bangladesh Islami Bank denies financing militants

Written by: Staff
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DHAKA, Mar 22 (Reuters) Bangladesh's top sharia-based commercial bank, Islami Bank, has denied it played a role in financing militants after regulators detected that funds had been transferred to suspicious accounts from its branches.

The government has ordered a crackdown on sources of fundings to thousands of Islamist militants, including members of two outlawed groups whose top leaders have been captured recently, in efforts to wipe out Islamist extremism in the country.

The Islami Bank has come under the spotlight of the central bank's anti-money laundering investigations, as it draws most of its capital from overseas Islamic institutions.

''We do not support terrorist activities, and we don't have any involvement with terror financing in any form,'' Abdur Raquib, executive president of the Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL), told Reuters late yesterday.

The central bank had probed many of its accounts and the bank itself had conducted a separate investigation, he said.

''We have suspended five employees including three branch managers and issued show cause notice to 15 others for their involvement in suspected transactions,'' Raquib said. The bank suspended employees for lapses in monitoring the transactions.

''But the investigations are still incomplete,'' he added.

The Bangladesh Bank, the central bank, investigation detected that telegraphic transfer of funds were made to eight ''suspected'' terror accounts using IBBL branches.

''These transactions were not suspected during normal banking operations, but we swooped on them after a cheque book of a suspected associate of one of the fugitive militants was brought to our notice,'' Raquib said. ''We pulled all stops to investigate the account immediately.'' That top fugitive was Shayek Abdur Rahman, supremo leader of outlawed Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen group, who surrendered to security forces on March 2 after his hideout in northeastern town of Sylhet was besieged.

Four days later another top fugitive, Siddikul Islam Bangla Bhai, chief of outlawed Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, was captured in a gunbattle in northern Mymensingh district.

The groups are fighting for introduction of tough sharia law in Bangladesh, a mainly Muslim democracy. They have killed at least 30 people and wounded 150 in a wave of bomb attacks that rocked the country since August last year.

Intelligence officials say these militants used to draw their funds from sources mainly in the west asia, through the IBBL and a few other Bangladeshi banks.

Central bank officials said they were investigating all the suspected banks, but did not name them.

''We have asked them (IBBL) to explain their position (on the suspicious transactions),'' Nazmul Hasan, an executive director of the Bangladesh Bank told Reuters. ''They have to reply within a week,'' he said yesterday.

REUTERS PR RN1147

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