The print and electronic media for the last few days are abuzz with the details of the money siphoned off from some Islamic banks, including the country's largest private bank---Islami Bank, Bangladesh, allegedly by a leading business group.
But none knows for sure the actual volume of money involved in the scam that has all the potential of becoming an unprecedented one.
A leading Bangla daily broke the news some days ago about the irregular sanctioning of loans involving a huge amount of money. Some non-existent firms, according to the report, also got loans worth billions of Taka. The news even prompted the head of government to seek a report from the agencies concerned on the issue.
The loan scam has triggered a public uproar of an unprecedented scale. No wonder, it is being discussed everywhere. The central bank, which is legally responsible for detecting loan anomalies in the banking sector, is reportedly investigating the matter.
The allegation is there that the business group has siphoned off funds worth Taka one trillion from the banks in which it had bought controlling stakes over the last few years. The amount being mentioned is just a guesstimate, as there is no way of knowing about the actual volume without a thorough probe by the banking sector regulator.
The central bank, undeniably, has been indifferent to this gross irregularity, deliberately or otherwise.
When the business group first took control of the Islami Bank, many an eyebrow were raised and a foul play was suspected. The Economist, one of the most influential news magazines in the world, in an article also mentioned the circumstances in which the previous management had to relinquish its control of the bank.
The central bank has lately asked the banks concerned to stop disbursement of the loans sanctioned beyond the rules. But the instruction seemingly has been issued too late to stop funds from going out of the banks' vaults. The hearsay is that the money has flown out of the country and the beneficiaries too are living abroad. Some even tend to link the recent higher demand for the greenback to the transfer of banks' money.
One can hardly ignore the apathy that the central bank and the concerned government agencies have been showing to growing irregularities in the banking sector in recent years. Decisions were taken beyond norms/rules in many cases, including sanctioning of loans and formation of boards of directors of both private and public sector banks. But such incidents could hardly draw the attention of the people who matter.
Things have gone too far, even though there are banks that strictly go by the rules and have been doing well. But a few past scams involving the Hall-Mark, Bismillah group, BASIC Bank, and People's Leasing had eroded depositors' confidence. No doubt, the latest scam is bound to cause more damage to the financial sector.
In the absence of a statement on the alleged scam involving the Islamic banks from the sector regulator, the ground remains very fertile for rumour-mongering. So, the central bank should come out with a clear statement on the issue while continuing its probe into the allegation of irregularities.