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Bangladesh to Sue Philippines Bank Over $81-Million Cybertheft


FILE - Maia Santos Deguito, a branch manager of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC), whispers to her lawyer as she testifies during a Senate hearing on money laundering involving $81 million stolen from Bangladesh central bank, at the Philippine Senate in Manila, April 12, 2016.

Bangladesh's central bank will file a lawsuit against a Philippines bank over its alleged role in one of the world's biggest cyber heists two years ago, Abu Hena Mohd Razee Hassan, Bangladesh's central bank deputy governor, said on Wednesday.

Unidentified hackers stole $81 million from Bangladesh Bank's account at the New York Fed in February 2016, using fraudulent orders on the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) payments system.

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

Bangladesh Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Wednesday confirmed Bangladesh's plan to file a lawsuit.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York and SWIFT will be parties to the lawsuit, with the case being filed in New York in two to three months, Hassan said.

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

"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 Philippines central bank.

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

Even after two years, it is unknown who is responsible for the theft and Bangladesh has been able to retrieve only about $15 million, mostly from a casino junket operator.

FILE - Salud Bautista, head of a remittance company Philrem, testifies before Philippine Senate Blue Ribbon Committee probe into how about $81 million of Bangladesh's stolen funds were transmitted online to four private accounts at a branch of the RCBC, M
FILE - Salud Bautista, head of a remittance company Philrem, testifies before Philippine Senate Blue Ribbon Committee probe into how about $81 million of Bangladesh's stolen funds were transmitted online to four private accounts at a branch of the RCBC, M

Authorities in the Philippines have opened an investigation and fined RCBD $20 million, but the Manila-based bank said it is not responsible for recovering the stolen money.

"As much as $17 million has been traced to money remittance company Philrem. The Anti-Money Laundering Council in the Philippines has confiscated the fund and a lawsuit is ongoing," Hassan said.

Another $29 million has been traced to Casino Solaire, now frozen by the court, in a pending case, he said.

"Bangladesh recovered $15 million and the process to get back the remaining fund is on," Hassan said.

In February 2016, the hack took place on a Friday, when Bangladesh Bank is closed. The Federal Reserve Bank in New York is closed on Saturday and Sunday, which slowed the response.

The U.S. reserve bank, which manages the Bangladesh Bank reserve account, has denied its own systems were breached.

VOA Bangla Service contributed to this report; some material from Reuters, AFP.

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