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Reserve heist

BD wants to settle issue out of court

Syful Islam | April 25, 2018 00:00:00

As the legal procedure is taking a long time to get back stolen reserve money from the Philippines, the government of Bangladesh is keeping its option open for settling the issue out of court, officials said.

Finance Minister AMA Muhith may have a bilateral meeting with governor of Philippines central bank Nestor Espenilla in the first week of next month in Manila on the sidelines of an annual meeting of the board of governors of Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Officials said during the meeting with Mr Espenilla, the Bangladesh finance minister may express the hope for settling the matter out of court among other issues.

During the meeting, he may also request Mr Espenilla to direct the authorities concerned to expedite the court process for settlement of the issue. The Philippines central bank will also be requested to instruct the RCBC to settle the issue with Bangladesh Bank immediately.

Deputy governor of Bangladesh Bank Abu Hena Mohd Razee Hassan told the FE that the central bank has informed the minister about the latest situation of stolen money and the court battle in Manila as he (minister) is scheduled to have a meeting with the Philippines central bank governor.

"We are trying in all the possible fronts to get back the money. We also expect a settlement out of court with the agencies and individuals involved," he said.

He said a court battle is underway in the Philippines over the stolen money which could be identified so far. A portion of money could not be identified as those went to other arenas like casino and to individuals, he added.

"And that happened due to the fault of Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation," said Mr Hassan, also the head of Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU).

The cybercriminals have stolen US$ 101 million from the Bangladesh Bank reserves deposited with the US Federal Reserve Bank in February 2016, and channelled to accounts at RCBC in Manila, by placing fraudulent order on the SWIFT payments system.

Nearly US$ 20 million of the sum was recovered from Sri Lanka. The lion's share of the booty landed in the Philippines and that is reported to have been squandered through gaming in casinos, among other matters of misdealing.

Later, some US$ 15 million could be recovered from the Philippines and channelling back some more money to Bangladesh is underway, according to officials.

There is no mentionable progress over return of US$ 66 million until now though the New York Fed, Bangladesh Bank, and SWIFT are working together with the authorities concerned in the Philippines.

Amid such a situation, Bangladesh has already decided to file a case with New York court to recover the stolen reserve money.

Officials said as a last resort before filing the case, Bangladesh wants to settle the ongoing issue out of court with the help of the central bank of the Philippines.

The CID (Criminal Investigation Department) has been asked to submit its probe report as soon as possible to file the case. An American law firm will be appointed to deal with the case and Bangladeshi lawyers will also assist them, Mr Muhith told newsmen last month.

Bangladesh has the scope to file the criminal case against RCBC until February next year, according to officials.

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