Security

Bangladesh to sue Manila bank over $81m heist

Bangladesh Bank will file a lawsuit in a New York court.
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Bangladesh Bank will file a lawsuit in a New York court.

Bangladesh's central bank will file a lawsuit against a Philippines bank over its role in one of the world's biggest cyber-heists two years ago, a deputy governor said yesterday.

Unidentified hackers stole $81 million from Bangladesh Bank's account at the New York Fed in February 2016, using fraudulent orders on the SWIFT payments system.

The money was sent to accounts at Manila-based Rizal Commercial Banking (RCBC) and then disappeared into the casino industry in the Philippines.

"Bangladesh Bank will file a lawsuit in a New York court within two to three months in connection with the reserve theft," central bank deputy governor Abu Hena Mohd. Razee Hassan told Reuters.

"We are in talks with the Federal Reserve Bank and SWIFT to join us as they are also victims," he added.

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For its part, RCBC said the cyber heist was an inside job and Bangladesh Bank was engaging in a cover-up by maligning it.

"Bangladesh Bank should stop making RCBC its scapegoat," the Philippine bank said in a statement. "RCBC has revealed everything it legally could to the Senate and to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas," referring to the Philippine central bank.

SWIFT spokeswoman Natasha de Teran declined to comment, saying SWIFT does not comment on customers.

Reuters reported in December that Bangladesh Bank had asked the New York Fed to join a lawsuit it was considering filing against RCBC seeking damages.

After two years, there is no word on who was responsible and Bangladesh Bank has been able to retrieve only about $15 million, mostly from a Manila junket operator.

The Philippine central bank fined RCBC a record one billion pesos ($20 million) in 2016 for its failure to prevent the movement of the stolen money through it.

RCBC has blamed rogue employees. Philippine prosecutors have filed money laundering charges against a former RCBC bank manager and four people who owned the bank accounts where the funds were sent, but are not identifiable since the accounts were under fake names. They are the only people to be formally cited anywhere in the world in association with the crime.

RCBC has said it would not pay any compensation to Bangladesh Bank and the Dhaka bank bore responsibility for the theft since it was negligent.

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