Finance Minister AMA Muhith has asked for Bangladesh Bank's advice to recover the money that was stolen from the deputy high commissioner of Bangladesh to Pakistan nearly three months ago.
A total of 33,011.86 euros, which was allotted for a Mercedes-Benz car for Deputy High Commissioner Noor-E Helal Saifur Rahman, stationed in Karachi, was stolen from the account of Bangladesh Embassy in Berlin, Germany on December 19, 2016.
In a short letter to Senior Finance Secretary Mahbub Ahmed, Muhith thanked the Finance Division for taking steps to recover the money and asked whether there were other measures that Bangladesh government could take in this regard.
“What is the advice of Bangladesh Bank in this matter?” he asked.
The letter was a response to the finance secretary's letter on this issue, which also included a letter from Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque to the senior finance secretary.
The Dhaka Tribune has obtained copies of both the letters.
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The finance minister sought advice from Bangladesh Bank when the central bank is still struggling to recover its own funds stolen from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (NY Fed) more than a year ago.
Hackers hacked into Bangladesh Bank's account in NY Fed and stole $81 million, directing the money to the Philippines.
Till date, Bangladesh Bank has been able to recover only $15.75 million from the Philippines.
In January this year, Bangladesh Bank Governor Fazle Kabir said they were likely to recover another $29 million of the stolen fund.
What happened in Karachi
According to the foreign secretary's letter dated January 26, the Deputy High Commission of Bangladesh in Karachi signed a deal with Daimler AG Stuttgart, the company that owns the brand Mercedes-Benz, last year to buy a car for the Karachi mission via the Bangladesh Embassy in Berlin.
To this end, the Karachi mission sent 40,000 euros to the account of the embassy in Berlin. The Berlin embassy deposited 15% of the amount to Daimler AG's account in Deutsche Bank AG Stuttgart in October.
On December 15, Daimler AG asked the Karachi mission to pay the rest of the amount, which was 33,011.86 euros, in order to get the car delivered in January this year.
The Karachi mission then requested the Berlin mission to make the payment on the same day.
As the next three days were bank holidays, the Berlin mission could not transfer the money to Daimler AG's account in Deutsche Bank.
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On December 19, another email was sent to the Berlin mission from the deputy high commissioner's personal email account, requesting to transfer the money to an account at National Westminster Bank in Manchester, England, which the email said was a substitute account of Daimler AG.
The email stated that the original account was under investigation and all financial activities of that account were suspended, which is why the company was using the substitute account.
Later, it was revealed that the deputy high commissioner did not send the email; his email account had likely been hacked.
Meanwhile, the Berlin mission received an electronic receipt confirming the payment, which was forwarded to the Karachi mission.
The Karachi mission contacted Daimler AG several times for verification, and they finally confirmed on January 20 that the receipt was fake and they did not have any account with National Westminster Bank.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs then instructed Bangladesh missions in Berlin, London and Manchester to immediately contact the banks and local law enforcement agencies to recover the money.
The ministry also formed a committee to run an internal investigation into the hack, the letter said.