Bangladeshi officials ask PH Senate to reopen probe of $81-M cyberheist
Bangladeshi officials have requested the Philippine Senate to reopen its investigation of the looting of $81 million from the central bank of Bangladesh by cybercriminals, as they seek Manila’s help in recovering the rest of the stolen money that was channeled through Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC).
“We are here to request the government of [the] Philippines to take initiatives for the return of the money that belong[s] to Bangladesh and entered the Philippines through RCBC from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York,” Anisul Huq, Bangladesh minister of law, justice and parliamentary affairs, said on Tuesday.
Unknown cybercriminals tried to steal nearly $1 billion from Bangladesh Bank, the country’s central bank, in February and managed to make off with $81 million through an account at the New York Fed.
The money was transferred to four accounts with bogus names at the RCBC branch on Jupiter Street, Makati City, and subsequently laundered through casinos.
About $15 million has been recovered from a gaming junket operator and was returned to Bangladesh, with a further $2.7 million frozen.
Huq, who is in Manila to speed up the recovery of the money, said his delegation met Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Department of Justice officials and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III.
Huq’s delegation includes Muhammad Abdur Razzaque, chair of parliamentary standing committee on finance ministry; Mahbubey Alam, attorney general of Bangladesh, and Fazle Kabir, governor of Bangladesh Bank.
Huq said RCBC had admitted liability when it paid the P1-billion ($20 million) fine imposed by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
“As they have admitted liability, we, through the good offices of the government of the Philippines, are demanding that RCBC pay back the rest of the money, which amount to $66 million as we already received $15 million,” Huq said.
RCBC on Tuesday afternoon issued a statement saying it had no liability since Bangladesh Bank had been negligent and that it should make public the result of its investigation.
Huq said the RCBC statement was irrelevant.
“It has got no connection with the demands we are making. It is a proven fact that RCBC had received the money in its account and they have admitted liability by paying the fine,” he said.
“The money landed here, therefore it is quite clear that there is great amount of involvement from persons in the Philippines,” Huq said.
He said that in all of the meetings with Philippine officials “me and the delegation thank[ed] the government of the Philippines for its cooperation and assistance given to the government of Bangladesh for recovery of the money.”
“Both governments agreed that we shall not harbor such criminals nor will we allow our countries to be used by such kind of criminals for such kind of offenses. We also agreed that this being a unique crime of cyberheist, we would cooperate to bring the criminals to justice and send the message to the entire world that we are quite capable of resolving this issue and bringing back the confidence that this crisis had caused to erode,” he added.
Huq said Pimentel gave assurance that he would start the process to resume a legislative hearing into the attack on Bangladesh Bank.
‘No case against us’
In the statement issued on Tuesday, RCBC external counsel Thea Daep said the bank was “not the proximate cause of the theft.”
“They have no case against us. [Bangladesh Bank] was the one who was negligent,” she said.
“Bangladesh Bank should share the results of its investigation and shed light on the identity of the perpetrators,” she said.
RCBC received the funds after the money went through three layers of highly protected financial institutions, Daep said, adding that reports from Bangladesh officials indicated there were insiders in Dhaka facilitating the heist.
“Shortly after, [Bangladesh Bank] decided to abort its investigation, which raises a lot of questions, to say the least,” Daep said.
Bangladesh Bank spokesperson Subhankar Saha told Reuters that “halt payment” instructions were sent to RCBC from both Dhaka and New York after the discovery of the heist, but RCBC did not comply.
“The payment in cash was also abnormal,” he said in Dhaka. “The mechanisms of transfer of money was also not transparent. So all these are questionable.”
The Bangladesh delegation was due on Thursday to meet BSP Gov. Amando Tetangco and the Anti-Money Laundering Council, which last week filed charges against five RCBC staff in connection with the heist.
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