The Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (CAMS), a US-based organisation, is exclusively assigned with the responsibility of fostering and developing professionalism in combating money laundering and financial crimes all over the world. This body confers the designation of CAMS (Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist) to the professionals working in this area. This designation is viewed with high importance by the financial institutions, regulatory bodies and even law-enforcement agencies all over the world. Even in many organisations, particularly in the developed world, it is a mandatory requirement of having CAMS designation for working in compliance department which includes three specific areas, viz., money laundering, sanctions and terrorist financing. Besides, this body reviews and analyses the financial crimes occurring across the world and based on their findings, they put forward their recommendations in order to update measures for combating money-laundering and financial crimes. The report on year-long activities of this organisation and their members' performance as well as achievement in curbing money-laundering and financial crimes in the world financial industry is presented in annual conference which is held in different places across the world in different years. Money-laundering and terrorist financing have now become a huge challenge not only for the financial institutions all over the world but also governments of many countries and their regulators as well as law-enforcement agencies. The situation has become so complex and widespread that financial institutions, including the ones of developed countries, are now frightened to undertake trade finance transactions involving cross-border fund transfer. Stringent rules and regulations are being introduced one after another, yet these crimes cannot be prevented at all because money launderers, criminals and terrorists are adopting new strategies to bypass those measures. Therefore every year this conference attaches important features which attract special attention from the members, professionals and persons with interest in this area. Similarly, the topic and issues discussed in the seminar and decisions/ recommendations made therein are also taken with serious consideration by the related parties and organisations all over the world.
This year CAMS conference will be held in Las Vegas, USA on September 26-28. Many contemporary issues and rapidly evolving situations arising out of widespread terrorism across the world have been included in the agenda of three-day-long conference. Money laundering and financial crime related to Bangladesh Bank's reserve heist have been included as a case study and placed in the discussion list of second day's agenda. The complete case material titled "Case Study: The $100 million Bangladesh Bank Cyberheist" has not come to my hand yet, because this will be distributed in the conference or only a few days ahead of the conference. As a result, I have not had the opportunity to go through the detailed contents of the case and therefore I am not sure how the case material has been designed and what is the learning outcome of this case study. However, the key features of the case as mentioned in the event schedule includes one point "Reviewing the suspected role of Bangladesh Bank insider assistance to develop strengthened KYE" which does not appear to be a positive aspect for the Bangladesh Bank. Inclusion of BB Reserve heist as a case study in a very prestigious conference to be held in the USA may ostensibly seem to be good omen because international arena, particularly those who are responsible for developing professionalism in the field of anti-money laundering and combating terrorist financing, has attached sincere attention to the recent money laundering offence related to USD 100 MM reserve heist from Bangladesh Bank. However, in reality Bangladesh Bank's outcome from this case study is not likely to be anything favourable at all. Of course, because of the depth and complexity of the money laundering and financial crime related to BB reserve hacking it would definitely be a good example or reference for professional discussion but that should be done after the issue is finally resolved or settled when Bangladesh Bank has recovered its stolen money and no further action is pending in this regard.
BB RESERVE HEIST IS STILL UNDER INVESTIGATION: In general the incident which has been resolved/settled should be taken as case study for the purpose of academic/professional discussion. Bangladesh Bank reserve heist is still under investigation as different committees and agencies have been investigating into this money laundering and financial crime. As far as I know Bangladesh Bank has been negotiating with concerned international bodies, including Federal Reserve Bank of New York, SWIFT Authority and US Government in a bid to recover the stolen money. Even the issue is sub judice in Philippine where the actual money laundering and financial crimes in connection with Bangladesh Bank's reserve hacking has taken place and therefore, related Senate Committee conducted hearing on this issue. Besides, a lawsuit in connection with this crime has been filed in the court of Philippine. Therefore, the matter still under active investigation should not be a topic of case study.
IMPACT OF INCLUSION OF BB RESERVE HEIST AS CASE STUDY: Although this is a kind of academic/ professional discussion, yet this may have adverse impact in the measures so far taken and will be taken in future by Bangladesh Bank to recover their money. In any academic or professional forum, a particular case is presented to the participants who take part in the threadbare discussion which leads to the decision at the end. Although there is practice of due disclaimer, yet the case discussed and decision thereon is always recorded and referred to when adjudication on a similar issue is required. In this conference, all world-class professional experts will make deliberations on this topic and will make some kind of decision which will be documented and as such may have implication in Bangladesh Bank's efforts to recover their stolen money. As for example, if the outcome of this case study goes against Bangladesh Bank and under compelling situation, if Bangladesh Bank files a lawsuit in US court where defendants refer this expert opinion in support of their submission, Bangladesh Bank will have great difficulty to rule it out. Of course, the decision of this case study may not be accepted in the court as evidence, but opinion expressed by the experts' panel may have implications in delivering judgement. Therefore it is the standard practice all over the world to exclude any active issue and include only finally settled issues for the purpose of reference and case study. I am not sure why the organisers of CAMS conference has included this active issue as a case study for open deliberation/debate for the experts attending the conference and mock decision to be taken thereon.
RIZAL BANK'S CEO'S OUSTER MAY BE A GOOD CASE STUDY: Bangladesh Bank's reserve heist should not be the subject of case study because its account with Federal Reserve Bank of New York has been hacked. The BB has been the victim of online hacking/malware as many other institutions all over the world have been affected with this type of cybercrime. So money laundering did not take place in Bangladesh Bank. Instead money laundering took place in Philippine where money launderers in connivance with Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) hacked USD 80 million from Bangladesh Bank's reserve account with Fed NY. The RCBC has been actively involved with this money laundering incident. Even three American intermediary banks allowed maintaining Nostro Account with RCBC who have no compliance at all because they have opened fake account of those launderers and allowed this financial crime. For RCBC's involvement with money laundering activity, the CEO of this bank has been fired. Therefore, if the topic related to this international money laundering/ financial crime is needed to be chosen as a case study for discussion and academic purpose only, this should be "RCBC's Compliance Failure, Involvement of Money Laundering and its CEO's ouster", not Bangladesh Bank's reserve heist.
BANGLADESH BANK'S MEASURE: Since opinion expressed by the anti-money laundering (AML) experts and professionals attending the conference on the case study related to BB reserve heist may have adverse impact on the measures undertaken to recover the stolen money, Bangladesh Bank should officially approach the organisers of CAMS conference for dropping the sub judice matter from the discussion list of the conference event. As a member of the association, I have expressed my concern and conveyed my opinion to them but they may not act upon my request because I am not authorised officially raise this issue on behalf of the Bangladesh Bank. If ACAMS or the organisers of CAMS conference is unable to drop this case study from the agenda as the programme schedule and event details to be covered in the conference have been finalised and distributed among the members and participants, Bangladesh Bank should actively consider sending a representative to that conference to represent it in the discussion on the case study. That person should be well-conversant about the incident and its relevant rules and regulations so that he can take part in the discussion and present Bangladesh Bank's position. He should make it very clear and convince the discussants that in this case Bangladesh Bank has been the victim of worldwide cybercrimes but actual money laundering has taken place in RCBC in Philippine and three intermediary banks in US have compliance failure in crediting hacked money to the NOSTRO account of RCBC. If the participants can be convinced properly, opinion on this case study can be made in favour of Bangladesh Bank which may come to its great help if and when the adjudication at various levels on this issue will be required.
Nironjan Roy, CPA, CMA is a Canada-based banker.