Bangladesh to sue Philippine bank over $81m cyber heist
An agreement has been signed with the US Federal Reserve in New York to assist Dhaka in the case, central bank governor said
Dhaka — Bangladesh will file a lawsuit in New York on Wednesday against a Philippine bank over its involvement in one of the biggest-yet cyber heists, the country’s central bank governor said.
Unidentified hackers stole $81m from the Bangladesh central bank’s account with the US Federal Reserve in New York in February 2016.
The money was transferred to a Manila branch of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC), swiftly withdrawn and laundered through local casinos.
A case will be filed against RCBC and “all others” involved in the heist to try retrieving the stolen funds, Bangladesh central bank governor Fazle Kabir said.
An agreement between the bank and the US Federal Reserve has been signed to assist Dhaka in the case, he added.
Bangladesh has sent a legal team to New York and is prepared to fight for the money to be returned, Kabir said.
The Philippines imposed a record $21m fine on RCBC in 2016 after investigating its role in the audacious cyberheist. The bank has rejected the allegations and in 2017 accused Bangladesh’s central bank of a “massive cover-up”.
Former RCBC manager Maia Deguito was handed a lengthy jail term and $109m in fines in January in the first conviction over the enormous theft.
Deguito, who was a branch manager where the money landed, was accused of coordinating the illegal transfer. She plans to appeal and can remain free on bail until the appeal is finalised.
Deguito is the only person who has been convicted in the case, drawing international concern. The theft exposed the Philippines as a haven for dirty money, where some of the world’s strictest bank secrecy laws protect account holders from scrutiny.
The hackers bombarded the Federal Reserve with dozens of transfer requests, attempting to steal $850m more. But the bank’s security systems and typing errors in some requests prevented the full theft.
The hack took place on a Friday, when Bangladesh’s central bank is closed. The Federal Reserve is closed on Saturday and Sunday, slowing the response.
The Federal Reserve, which manages the Bangladesh central bank account, has denied its own systems were breached.