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Bangladesh suing RCBC over cyberheist

/ 05:36 AM February 01, 2019

Bangladesh is set to file a lawsuit in a United States court on Wednesday against Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) over its role in one of the world’s biggest cyberheists, the Bangladesh central bank governor said.

In February 2016, unknown criminals used fraudulent orders on the Swift payments system to steal $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The money was sent to accounts at RCBC and then vanished into the casino industry in the Philippines.

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Fazle Kabir, governor of Bangladesh Bank, said the lawsuit would be filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

“All necessary processes have been completed and Bangladesh signed an agreement Tuesday night with the New York Fed Bank to assist Bangladesh in handling this case,” Kabir told reporters.

RCBC taps US law firm

RCBC previously said the cyberheist was an inside job and Bangladesh Bank was engaging in a cover-up by maligning it.

“We welcome this complaint, as it is an opportunity for RCBC to put on record again that it was a victim of what was started in Bangladesh by still unnamed persons,” the bank said in a statement on Wednesday. It said it had engaged a top New York law firm to handle its defense.

It said it was also a victim of the elaborate heist, insisting that the entry of the funds into the Philippines through the bank was the work of a rogue branch manager working alone.

RCBC assailed what it described as a lack of transparency on the part of the Bangladesh government over the supposed internal security lapses that allowed the heist to take place.

It said the Bangladesh central bank had been trying to evade responsibility for its own failures. “We hope Bangladesh Bank can be as transparent and stop blaming everybody but itself,” it said.

“The complaint will allow us to finally get the information we, and the Philippine government, have been asking Bangladesh Bank to provide.”

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Branch manager guilty

Early last month, the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) found former RCBC branch manager Maia Deguito guilty of eight counts of money laundering in connection with the heist and sentenced her to a jail term ranging from 32 to 56 years.

She has asked Makati RTC Branch 149 to reverse its decision.

Bangladesh Ambassador to the Philippines Asad Alam Siam told reporters that he hoped the ruling would jump-start cases that had been filed in the Department of Justice (DOJ) against six other RCBC officials.

A former bank treasurer and five other workers at the branch where the cash was withdrawn face money laundering charges.

The DOJ said the case was not closed.

A North Korean hacker is also wanted by the United States on charges he and a state-sponsored hacking crew masterminded the Bangladesh heist.

In 2016, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas fined RCBC a record P1 billion ($20 million) for its failure to prevent the movement of the stolen money through the bank.

Just $15 million of the stolen money has been recovered from a Manila junket operator, a role that involves marketing casinos to VIPs. —REPORTS FROM DAXIM L. LUCAS

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TAGS: $81 million, Bangladesh, Bangladesh Bank, cyber heist, RCBC
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