The Financial Express

BB decides to sue RCBC to recover stolen reserve

| Updated: September 13, 2018 14:37:45

Lankabangla and Fianancial Express Lankabangla and Fianancial Express
The Bangladesh Bank seal is pictured on the gate outside the central bank headquarters in Motijheel, the bustling commercial hub in capital Dhaka. Photo/Collected The Bangladesh Bank seal is pictured on the gate outside the central bank headquarters in Motijheel, the bustling commercial hub in capital Dhaka. Photo/Collected

The Bangladesh Bank (BB) will file a case against the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) of the Philippines in January next, unless the stolen reserve money is recovered normally.

The central bank officials informed the BB audit committee of the decision recently, which is headed by senior secretary of the financial institutions division under the ministry of finance (MoF).

Finance Minister AMA Muhith this week told reporters the central bank has already appointed a lawyer to look into the issues relating to filing the case against the RCBC.

He said the New York Federal Reserve Bank will be a party in the case to be filed against RCBC.

"We are assessing the pros and cons of filing the case at this stage," BB deputy governor Abu Hena Mohd Razee Hassan told the FE on Thursday.

He said if Bangladesh wants to file the case in the USA, it has to be filed by February next, or within three years of the incident.

"But if we want to file the case in the Philippines, we can do it by four years of the incident," Mr Hassan said.

The cyber-criminals stole US$ 101 million from Bangladesh Bank's reserves deposited with the US Federal Reserve Bank in February 2016.

They channelled the money into bank accounts at the RCBC in Manila by placing fraudulent orders on the SWIFT payments system.

Nearly $ 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.

Latter, some $ 15 million more could be recovered from the Philippines.

However, there is no headway for recovering the remaining over $ 66 million from the Philippines.

Initially, the government authorities in the Philippines extended cooperation to recover the money.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas', the central bank of the Philippines, in August 2016 fined the RCBC $ 21 million for its involvement in the reserve heist.

The branch manager of RCBC, Maia Deguito, was arrested in August 2016 for her involvement in the theft and was released later.

She is now facing money laundering charges and is also sued by RCBC President Lorenzo Tan, for libel.

But in recent months, officials said, the authorities in the Philippines were not cooperating, as expected.

They are repeatedly asking Bangladesh to forward the official probe report, carried out by a committee headed by former BB governor Dr Mohammed Farashuddin after the incident.

Even the RCBC authority threatened to file case against Bangladesh Bank officials for allegedly maligning its image, making it a "scapegoat", and claiming the bank had a hand in the theft.

Against this backdrop, officials of the finance ministry and the BB were finding the options of an out of the court settlement of the issue.

Now they believe that recovering the remaining $ 66 million from RCBC would not be possible without a legal battle.

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