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Out-of-court settlement over BB reserve heist likely

PH minister says RCBC-BB talks exclude Manila

May 05, 2018 00:00:00

Bangladesh would consider an out-of-court settlement with a bank in the Philippines over US$81 million (S$107 million) cyber heist money, Bangladesh central bank officials said on Thursday, reports Reuters.

The money was stolen from its accounts in New York by hackers who wired the money to Manila.

In one of the world's biggest cyber heists, the hackers stole the Bangladesh Bank money held at the New York Fed in February 2016 using fraudulent orders on the SWIFT payments system and sent it to Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.

From there, it disappeared into the casino industry in the Philippines.

No one has been charged for the heist despite an international investigation and two years of finger-pointing among Bangladesh, the Philippines, the Fed and SWIFT.

"There is an option before us to settle the issue out of court," a senior official at Bangladesh's central bank told Reuters.

The official, who declined to be identified, cited as a precedent an out-of-court settlement in February reached by Ecuador's Banco del Austro and Wells Fargo over a 2015 cyber heist.

Bangladesh's Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith on Thursday met Carlos Dominguez, Finance Secretary of the Philippines, on the sidelines of a four-day annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank in Manila to discuss the cyber heist, said two senior central bank officials close to the issue.

Bangladesh is yet to take legal action but had planned a suit to recover US$66 million.

Around US$15 million has been recovered from a Manila junket operator, a job that involves marketing casinos to VIPs.

"We will try for all possible options to recover our stolen money," the officials added.

There was no immediate comment from Dominguez or Rizal bank in Manila.

Another report by http://thestandard.com.ph added, Philippines Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the government has "nothing to do" with the reported plan of Bangladesh Bank for an out-of-court settlement with Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.

"Yesterday, the finance minister and the ambassador of Bangladesh mentioned that and my opinion is that, that is between them and the private sector. It's nothing to do with us," Dominguez said Friday at the sidelines of the 51st annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank in Mandaluyong City.

"The government has taken action, we have penalized the bank (RCBC) that have not followed our procedure, we have filed legal cases, the AMLC (Anti-Money Laundering Council) has filed cases against the suspects and if they want to make a legal settlement, then we are not involved in that. We are only implementing our laws here," Dominguez said.He said he told Bangladeshi officials that the AMLC needed evidence that the crime was committed here.

"The crime was not committed here. The crime of hacking was not committed here. It was committed somewhere else, maybe Bangladesh, maybe in New York. So the local courts need the evidence... ," Dominguez said.

He said local courts had been asking Bangladesh for the evidence since the latter part of 2016.

"So according to the AMLC, they have not been able to really pursue the case vigorously because that's what the courts here require... ," he said.

Dominguez said the Bangladeshi ambassador "promised" to him that he would provide the evidence.

"They just said they're working on it. We're waiting," Dominguez said.

In February 2016, cyber thieves stole $81 million from the account of Bank of Bangladesh in New York and wired the dirty money to some fictitious accounts in the Jupiter, Makati branch of RCBC. The money was later laundered by a number of individuals in local casinos.

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