BB cyber heist: Settlement scrapped, case against RCBC

Golam Mowla
Published : 12:11, Jun 14, 2018 | Updated : 12:14, Jun 14, 2018

Cyber criminals tried to steal nearly $1 billion from Bangladesh Bank in February last year and made off with $81 million via an account with the New York Federal Reserve.Bangladesh has dropped the plan for an out-of-court settlement with a bank in the Philippines over $81 million cyber heist from its accounts in New York and decided to file a lawsuit in the US.
A lawsuit will be filed in the New York against Manila-based Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC) anytime after Jul 6, says a senior Bangladesh Bank official.
Bangladesh has been waiting for RCBC’s proposal for a settlement for the last one year, but it has now changed its stance.
“Bangladesh will not negotiate any criminal quarters as no Bangladesh Bank officials were involved in the heist. RCBC will have to return the money, once the lawsuit is accepted by the court in the US,” said the official, who declined to be identified.
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 Corp and then disappeared into the casino industry in the Philippines.
Another $20 million was wired to Sri Lanka, though that transfer was stopped successfully.
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.
More than two years later, 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.
“We have nearly ended all procedures to file a lawsuit in the US. The assessment has been completed and all the required documents, as well as evidence, are with our lawyers,” the central bank official told Bangla Tribune.
He said New York Fed and SWIFT will join Bangladesh in the lawsuit.
The Philippine central bank fined RCBC a record $20 million in 2016 for its failure to prevent the movement of the stolen money through it.
RCBC has blamed rogue employees and 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 in 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.