Friday, January 18, 2019

Manila bank threatens to sue Bangladesh central bank officials over $81m heist

  • News Desk,
    Published: 2018-02-09 13:20:50 BdST

Philippines authorities opened a probe and slapped a $20-million fine on RCBC, but the Manila-based bank says it is not responsible for recovering the stolen money. Reuters file photo

A day after Bangladesh confirmed that it would sue a Philippines bank in US for damages over the 2016 cyber heist, Manila-based Rizal Commercial Bank Corp or RCBC has threatened counter measures.

In a media statement on Thursday, RCBC said it was considering legal actions against Bangladesh Bank officials, reports The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

It alleged Dhaka officials of maligning the bank and using it as a “scapegoat” over one of the world’s biggest cyber heists.

On Wednesday, the Bangladesh Bank said it has decided to start a lawsuit in New York against RCBC over its role in the reserve theft.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York and SWIFT will be parties to the lawsuit, said Deputy Governor Abu Hena Mohd Razee Hassan told the media in Dhaka.

RCBC, which had earlier accused Bangladesh Bank or BB of covering up its own negligence, said in Thursday’s statement that they will not allow any further efforts to ‘malign’ them.

“RCBC has had it and will consider a lawsuit against Bangladesh Central Bank (BB) officials for claiming the bank had a hand in the $81M cyberheist two years ago,” the Daily Inquirer report said quoting the bank’s statement.

The bank, which had been slapped a $20-million fine by Philippines authorities, claimed that various probe reports, including the one conducted by Bangladesh, “indicate an inside job.”

“BB and Dhaka officials refuse to release their findings to hide from the Bangladeshi public what could very well be the involvement of its own officials who may have helped loot their money deposited with the New York Federal Reserve,” the statement reads.

Accusing BB of ‘perpetuating the cover up’, RCBC said they were being used as a scapegoat “to keep their people in dark.”

“If they sue, RCBC is ready and prepared. The first thing we will ask is for BB and Dhaka to submit to court their findings. If they refuse, they will immediately suffer from comparison since RCBC willingly shared information to the extent allowed by law,” it said.

In the audacious bank heist in February 2016, hackers tried to swindle $1 billion belonging to Bangladesh from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York using forged commands through SWIFT messaging system.

The hackers siphoned off $81 million to accounts in the Philippines using five messages. Another $20 million was wired to Sri Lanka.

Though the Sri Lankan transfer was stopped successfully, the fund wired to the Philippines made its way to gambling dens, making it impossible to be recovered.

Two years into theft, it is yet to be found who were responsible and Bangladesh has been able to retrieve only about $15 million, mostly from a casino junket operator.

People in Bangladesh could learn about the largest cyber heist in the world through reports published in a Filipino newspaper a month after the incident.

The heist cost Governor Atiur Rahman his job after he drew flak for keeping the theft under wraps. It was followed by a major overhaul of the top brass of Bangladesh’s central bank.