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Bangladesh Bank wants to move US court over heist before polls

  • Published at 05:41 am November 22nd, 2018
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The Bangladesh Bank building at Motijheel Mehedi Hasan/ Dhaka Tribune

It is still unclear who were behind the cyber theft, one of the biggest in history

Bangladesh’s central bank is planning to file a case with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York before the upcoming parliamentary election over the February 2016  heist of $81 million from its account by still unidentified cyber attackers.

A senior Bangladesh Bank official told the Bangla Tribune that preparations have been completed in time to make such a move before the December 30 election, even though international law stipulates that Bangladesh has until February 3 next year to file a case for damages. 

“The decision was taken in September to prevent people during the election campaign from blaming the central bank for not taking any steps to recover the funds,” an official of the bank said, seeking anonymity.

He added that the bank will soon hold a briefing on the matter.

Sources say the central bank is also writing to other countries in the hope they can provide information about the heist - which occurred when hackers succeeded in instructing the New York Fed to transfer money to various accounts using fraudulent orders on the SWIFT payments system.

If all the transfer requests had gone unchallenged, they would have stolen $1 billion. Only the sheer number of transactions and a spelling mistake helped alert bank staff to the theft. 

The $101m ultimately stolen by the hackers ended up in bank accounts in Sri Lanka and the Philippines - although Sri Lanka immediately returned $20 million once the heist became known.

Bangladeshis only learned about the $81 million net theft - which remains the biggest heist in the country’s history - about a month later, following a report published in a Philippines newspaper. 

The then central bank governor Atiur Rahman resigned amid criticism.

So far, two cases have been filed with a Philippines court after Bangladesh Bank  announced it was suing Philippines bank Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) for the recovery of the stolen funds. Manila is said to be providing all the necessary assistance to Dhaka.

It is still unclear who was behind the heist and the CID unit of police is yet to publish a report even after more than two years of investigations.

An investigation committee, led by former Bangladesh Bank governor Mohammed Farashuddin, did file its report to the finance minister but the findings of the report have not been made public.

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