Wednesday, January 24, 2018 | ePaper

$81m cyber-heist

BB, RCBC trade blame game again

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Kazi Zahidul Hasan :
Bangladesh Bank (BB) and Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC) of Philippine have once again engaged in blame game trading over the liability for $81 million that was drained out from the BB's reserve account held with New York Federal Reserve Bank and went missing in Manila after one of the biggest bank hacking ever.
A RCBC bank official in a statement on Monday accused BB of covering up its negligence for the cyber-heist and demanded that it should stop making the bank a "scapegoat".
Rejecting the RCBC's allegation, a central bank high official preferring anonymity told The New Nation yesterday that "halt payment" instructions were sent to RCBC from both BB and NY Federal Reserve Bank but it (RCBC) did not comply with the instructions.
"They made payment of the heist money even after the instructions. So, it was their fault and they should be held liable over the incident," he added.
He added, "The payment was abnormal and even the transfer of money was not transparent because the money was transferred to four fictitious accounts of the bank's Jupiter Branch in Manila."  
RCBC authorities later fired the branch manager for transferring the money to these accounts.  
Philippine's anti-money laundering body filed charges against five RCBC staff following the incident. The central bank of Philippines also slapped a record 1 billion pesos ($20 million) fine to RCBC for failing to prevent the transfer of stolen money through its accounts.
"They have accepted the liability by paying the fine and that is why we are asking them to return our money," said the BB official.
He also said that RCBC has started making different excuses in this regard, which is unacceptable, and breach of international law.
The comment of the BB official came on the heels after a RCBC official on Monday lashed out at BB regarding the $81 million heist in 2016.
"BB is definitely partly to blame for the heist. Its refusal to be transparent is a continuing cover-up and a disservice to global efforts to combat cybercrime," Atty. George Dela Cuesta alleged in a statement.
Dela Cuesta, who holds the position of first vice-senior president and head of legal affairs at RCBC, asked BB to stop making the Philippine bank a "scapegoat."
"RCBC has revealed everything it legally could to the Senate and its regulator, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. BB, however, has concealed everything it could. The contrast is telling," he said.
His statement came following the statement of Bangladesh's Finance Minister AMA Muhith that the government is considering to file civil suit against RCBC as the bank is making dilly-dally to compensate the BB.
Dela Cuesta said Bangladesh' finance minister earlier described the heist as an "inside job." "If it was stolen with alleged connivance of BB's own people, why should RCBC be the one to return the money?" he said.
"RCBC was a beneficiary bank, who received the funds in good faith. Unfortunately, its Jupiter branch, where the $81 million was deposited, was headed by a rogue branch manager who eventually was fired and charged in court and is currently being prosecuted to the fullest extent by RCBC," the statement added.
Dela Cuesta also said the Bangladesh government panel refused to release its findings on the heist
"Is there something really worth hiding because it is so damning?" he said.
Unknown cyber criminals tried to steal nearly $1 billion from BB in February 2016 and managed to make off with $81 million via an account at the New York Federal Reserve. That was transferred to four accounts with bogus names at one RCBC branch in Manila before vanishing.
Most of the money that ended up in the Philippines was laundered through casinos. About $15 million has been recovered from a gaming junket operator and was returned to Bangladesh, with a further $2.7 million frozen.

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