Cybercriminal Lazarus group hacked Bangladesh Bank
Cybercriminal gang Lazarus group carried out the $81 million Bangladesh Bank cyber heist, not the other groups named since the February 2016 incident, according to a top researcher of cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab. Vitaly Kamluk, director of the Moscow-based company’s global research and analysis team for the Asia Pacific region, said: “We’re pretty sure it was the work of Lazarus group.” The researcher made the remarks in an email interview with The Daily Star recently. By contrast Lamont Siller, an FBI officer in the Philippines involved in the investigations, said last month that the heist from the central bank’s account at the New York Federal Reserve was “state-sponsored”. In the wake of the crime, then central bank governor Atiur Rahman was forced to step down along with two deputies. BB formed a committee to probe the attacks but the report has not been made public yet.
No of accounts with at least Tk 1cr deposit rises by 3,759 in 3 months
Number of bank depositors having more than Tk 1 crore in their accounts has increased by 3,759 to 65,797 in December 2016 from that in September of the same year, a latest BB statistics published on Tuesday showed. Of the 65,797 accounts, 51,741 account holders’ deposit stood above Tk 1 crore, while 769 and 314 accountholders more than Tk 50 crore and Tk 40 crore respectively in their bank accounts with different private and government banks. The BB data also showed that 192 individuals’ deposit stood more than Tk 35 crore as of December 31 2016. In September 2016, number of bank accounts having Tk 1 crore in their bank accounts was 62,038. Of the accounts, 48,897 individuals’ deposit stood more than Tk 1 crore in their bank accounts, while 702 individuals’ deposit stood above Tk 50 crore.
BB freezes Janata Bank’s Tk 418cr over MoU condition violation
Bangladesh Bank has taken a decision to freeze Tk 418 crore of state-owned Janata Bank kept in its account with the central bank for disbursement of loans beyond limit during the year 2016. BB in each year signs MoUs with four state-owned commercial banks setting targets for them to improve different indicators. Under the agreement, Janata Bank was bound to make improvements in 13 indicators, including loan disbursement, defaulted loan recovery, capital recovery and improvement of the loss incurring branches. As per a condition of the MoU, Janata Bank was allowed to disburse 12 per cent more loans in 2016 than that in the previous year. Janata Bank’s loan disbursement, however, grew by 15.19 per cent in 2016 in violation of the MoU condition.
NBR asks banks to freeze accounts of an Otobi unit
The National Board of Revenue has asked banks to freeze all accounts of a unit of furniture maker and retailer Otobi for non-payment of value added tax worth Tk 60.55 lakh, a senior official said yesterday. The Customs, Excise and VAT Commissionerate of Dhaka West has recently issued the directive asking all banks to freeze the bank accounts of M/S Otobi Ltd (Unit-5). The directive also asked banks to deduct the amount unless the VAT is paid to the exchequer within 15 days. “We have already frozen the accounts after detection of the evasion in an audit into the records of the firm,” said Md Shahidul Islam, commissioner of Customs, Excise and VAT Commissionerate.
Government to rethink allowing local companies to invest abroad
The government wants to allow local private companies to invest abroad, considering the country’s economic strength, said a finance ministry top official yesterday. “The finance ministry is ready to allow local companies to invest abroad, but the central bank has strong reservations about it,” said Md Eunusur Rahman, secretary to the bank and financial institutions division of the finance ministry. Capital accounts are not convertible as per the Bangladesh foreign exchange law, which means that no individual or company can invest abroad without the prior approval of Bangladesh Bank (BB). The central bank allows local companies to invest in foreign countries on a case-to-case basis and has already permitted several companies to do so. But recently, BB has turned down the proposals of some companies to invest abroad, especially to some African countries and Vietnam.
Financial Reporting Council (FRC) may act soon to oversee auditors’ work
The much-debated financial reporting council (FRC) may start functioning anytime soon as the appointment of its chairman now awaits the final seal, sources said Wednesday. It’s an independent watchdog against cooking accounts books of institutions and enterprises. The process of formation of the council is riddled with pitfalls, including opposition from professionals in the accounting and auditing jobs. Finally, the council law was passed in parliament in September 2015. Executive orders for the formation of the high-powered body also came sometime in 2016, but it remained non-operational for want of its chairman and other key officials. The FRC is believed to ensure accountability and improve performance of the professional accountants of Bangladesh as it will oversee work of auditors so that such financials cannot be doctored.More importantly, the council will also monitor financial matters of various government, autonomous and non-government institutions as well.
The fiscal deficit in Bangladesh is likely to deteriorate slightly in the current fiscal year (FY), according to a new report. “The increase in the deficit reflects the delay in the VAT (Value Added Tax) rollout and higher wage bill and transfers,” it said. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected the fiscal position in its publication “Fiscal Monitor – April 2017” released Wednesday, couple of days before the IMF and the World Bank Spring Meetings that begins in Washington DC tomorrow (Friday). The projections were based on the same database used for the April 2017 World Economic Outlook and Global Financial Stability Report the global lender released Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. The Fiscal Monitor estimated that Bangladesh’s fiscal deficit would stand at 4.7% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in the current fiscal year, which is just similar with the Bangladesh government’s estimate (including grants). In the budget for the current fiscal year, the government estimated the deficit to be 5.0% of GDP excluding the grants. The Fiscal Monitor report also projected that the fiscal deficit of Bangladesh would come down to 4.2% in the next fiscal year – an estimate that runs counter to Finance Minister AMA Muhith’s projection.
Country’s merchandise export to the United Kingdom (UK) dropped by around seven per cent in the first nine months of the current fiscal year (FY17). Statistics available with the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) of Bangladesh, export to the UK dropped to $2.62 billion in July-March period of the current fiscal year from $2.82 billion in the same period of last fiscal year. The decline in export may be attributed to the negative impact of the Brexit or Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU).
The government will form a taskforce to ease doing business and facilitate trade through addressing problems businesses raised Wednesday. Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed announced the decision at a government-business consultation aimed at making ways for taking the economy further forward. “Every ministry will constitute taskforce to ease doing business and for trade facilitation across the country. Different trade associations will be included in the taskforce. Activities to ease doing business in the country will continue throughout the year,” the commerce minister told reporters after the meeting.
Power Division seeks BDT 260.0 billion in next ADP
The Power Division has sought a development allocation of BDD 259.6 billion for the next fiscal year (FY), which is 45.0% higher than that of the current FY. It will be the highest demand among other sectors under the Annual Development Programme (ADP) for the FY 2017-18, officials said Wednesday. In the current ADP, the division received BDT 179.1 billion in allocation for implementing the development projects. Out of total amount, the division sought BDT 143.2 billion from the internal resources and BDT 116.4 billion from the external resources as project aid.
Leaders from ICT sectors at a pre-budget discussion in Dhaka on Wednesday demanded that the National Board of Revenue withdraw value-added tax on internet use. The Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services also demanded a 40.0% incentive on export of software and information technology services to achieve the target of export earnings at USD 5.0 billion by 2021 from the sector. The BASIS said that currently there was no such incentive for the sector though many sectors including textile was enjoying cash incentive on export earnings. The association also demanded withdrawal of 15.0% VAT on internet bills to encourage use of the internet by common people in a bid to build a digital society. It also sought removal of customs duty on import of internet equipments including modem, Ethernet interface card, computer network switch and server and imposition of higher duty on complete digital devices which are produced in the country. The association also requested the revenue board to include 25 services including IT infrastructure planning, development and maintenance, server system management, hardware maintenance, cyber security services and database management in the definition of IT-enabled services so that the entrepreneurs of services can enjoy income tax exemption.
BIA demands cut in insurance companies’ corporate tax to 25.0% from existing 40.0%
Bangladesh Insurance Association on Wednesday proposed that the government in coming budget for financial year 2017-18 should reduce corporate tax for the insurance companies to 25.0% instead of existing 40.0%. Besides, the association also demanded for scrapping the 5% tax provision on insurance policy benefits of policyholders, 15.0% value added tax and 5.0% source tax on agents’ commission, and 40.0% tax on insurance company’s excess operating expenses. The insurance association came up with the proposal at a pre-budget press briefing held at its office in Dhaka. Kabir said that the sales of life insurance policies have been on the decline since 2014 when the government imposed 5.0% gain tax on policy benefits as policyholders prefer depositing funds into banks rather than purchasing life insurance policy.
The Bangladesh Reconditioned Vehicle Importers and Dealers Association (BARVIDA) on Wednesday sought tax rebates and incentives for imported hybrid cars. A hybrid vehicle uses two or more distinct types of power, such as internal combustion engine plus electric motor. The association leaders said the price of reconditioned hybrid cars was 35 to 40% more than the fossil cars where they proposed providing 35% subsidies to supply such fuel-efficient and environment-friendly cars with almost similar price of the fossil cars. The association leaders also made some proposals including re-assessment of depreciation rates of fossil fuel cars, amendment to counting rating system of the cars to provide depreciation and changes in slab-wise tax imposition. They made the proposals at a pre-budget discussion with the National Board Revenue (NBR) at the NBR auditorium in the city.
SUMMIT Group eyes more power and port projects after the successful completion of most of its ventures in Bangladesh, the chairman of the company said. The group has taken a $2-billion investment plan in order to set up a terminal for liquefied natural gas, two LNG-based power plants and ports, said Muhammed Aziz Khan. “We have kept our promises by implementing all of our projects on time,” he said. Summit Group is the largest private sector power producer in Bangladesh, generating over 1,500MW of electricity. Recently, it completed the 115MW Barisal power plant and 55MW Narayanganj plant, while the 115MW plant in Gazipur and a floating liquefied natural gas terminal are under implementation.
Esquire Knit Composite, a strategic business unit of Esquire Group, plans to invest Tk 576 crore in business expansion to meet the growing demand from international retailers. Of the amount, Tk 340 crore will come from local and foreign loans, Tk 86 crore from the company’s own funds and the rest Tk 150 crore from the capital market, a top official said. “We need to expand our business to meet the increasing demands from our existing clients,” Ehsanul Habib, managing director of Esquire Knit, said at a roadshow in Dhaka on Tuesday organised as part of its initial public offering (IPO) plan. C&A, Zara, Esprit, Only, Tee Jays, Fynch-Hatton and Hunkemoller are some of the international buyers of Esquire Knit. With the funds, the export-oriented knit garments factory will set up new units at Bhaluka in Mymensingh and expand the existing unit at Sonargaon in Narayanganj, said Habib. Esquire Knit will use book building method to raise Tk 150 crore from the capital market. Of the proceeds, Tk 100.42 crore will be used for constructing buildings, Tk 43.14 crore for buying dyeing and washing machinery, and the rest Tk 6.44 crore for bearing IPO expenses.
When Grameenphone started its journey as a village phone programme in 1997, mobile phone was still a luxury in Bangladesh. But in the last two decades it has not only grown keeping pace with the economy but also taken modern but affordable telecom services to the doorstep of the people. It took only a year or two to become the leading and largest telecom service provider in Bangladesh – a feat it has successfully retained years after years. It is one of the largest taxpayers in the country too. Today, GP has nearly 6 crore subscribers, nearly half of the total customer base in the country. It generates 22.25 crore calls daily. Over 2 crore people use internet on its network.
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