Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Bangladesh has spent Tk 30 million on legal battle to recover stolen central bank funds

  • Staff Correspondent,
    Published: 2019-02-03 21:55:35 BdST


Bangladesh has already splurged Tk 30 million on the legal battle to get back the money lost to the 2016 central bank cyber heist.

Abu Hena Mohd Razee Hassan, the chief of Bangladesh Bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit, briefed the media in Dhaka on Sunday about the development of the lawsuit filed in a New York court.

A team is working on the suit and the central bank has also appointed an American law firm, which is being paid per hour, Hassan said without revealing the figure.

Asked about the cost of the legal battle, he said Tk 30 million has been spent on filing the lawsuit and other related jobs.

On being asked whether it will eventually cost more than $66.4 million yet to be recovered after the cyber heist, Hassan suggested that the government was not too concerned about the expense.

“Our target is to bring back the total (stolen) funds,” he said.

Ajmalul Hossain QC, a lawyer for the central bank, said it would take three years for disposal of the lawsuit.

The Bangladesh Bank lost $81 million to the heist in February 2016. The funds were transferred to the Philippines and beyond using Philrem and a branch of the Manila-based Rizal Commercial Banking Corp or RCBC.

RCBC was fined a record 1 billion pesos ($19.17 million) by the Filipino central bank in August 2016 for its failure to prevent the movement of the stolen money through the bank.

A former treasurer of RCBC and five other workers at the branch where the cash was withdrawn are facing money laundering charges.

On Jan 11 this year, a Philippines court held a former manager of a RCBC branch guilty on eight counts of money laundering, the first conviction in the cyber heist.

Only $15 million of the stolen money has been retrieved from a Manila junket operator, a role that involves marketing casinos to VIPs.

The Bangladesh Bank suit, filed on Thursday, aims to recover the rest of the funds and bring the culprits to justice.

The case accuses the RCBC and dozens of others, including several top executives, of involvement in a “massive” and “intricately planned” multi-year conspiracy to steal its money.

Governor Fozle Kabir on Saturday said Bangladesh Bank has information about where the stolen reserves are being kept in the Philippines.

Kabir said the individuals who either benefited or were complicit in the heist carried out by hackers have been named in the suit.