A central bank probe blamed the lax monitoring of Sonali Bank's treasury division for the illegal transfer of $250,000 to a Turkish bank.
“The treasury division did not even perform its own duty,” Bangladesh Bank said in its probe conducted in July last year.
In June 2013, the passwords of two officials of the state-run commercial bank's Shilpa Bhaban corporate branch were used to send payment instructions for $250,000 and €250,000 to Sonali Bank UK within a space of five days.
As the Sonali Bank UK does not have any arrangement with Turk Ekonomi Bankasi in Istanbul, $250,000 was sent through Natwest London. However, the transfer in euro could not be completed due to inadequate balance in the subsidiary's euro currency account.
The UK outpost then requested the treasury division to send in the required euro to complete the payment, which ultimately brought the irregularity to the head office's attention.
After receiving the message, the treasury division contacted the Shilpa Bhaban branch and came to know that no such message was sent to the Sonali Bank UK. In fact, no transfer instruction was sent out.
If the treasury division had been vigilant enough, it could have taken steps to stop the first transfer of $250,000 by checking the bank's central server, according to the Bangladesh Bank probe.
Furthermore, had the division examined the confirmation statement sent by the Sonali Bank UK on June 3 then there would not have been any scope to send the other instruction for €250,000 four days later, the probe found.
The two officials—Md Shah Alam, senior executive officer of SWIFT department, and Monowar Hossain, junior officer of IT—were handed to Motijheel police as soon as the management got wind of the wrongdoings.
But when their replacements went to office on June 17 they also found that similar attempts were made to send the message to remit the money in euro.
The probe said the crime might have been committed by different person/s associated with the SWIFT and IT divisions of the branch or the head office of the bank.
At the time, the head office did not have any control over payment instructions to abroad in foreign currency, even though the treasury division earlier on May 12 advised the head office to do so.
Sonali Bank Managing Director Pradip Kumar Dutta said the notice could not be implemented as the necessary software was not installed at the time.
“Now the software has been installed, and the treasury management division has been strengthened. So, there is no scope for repeats of such events,” he told The Daily Star. The software automatically alerts the head office when a foreign transaction is made.
The banker also said the foreign exchange branches' authority has been curbed since: they now have to take consent from the head office to make payments in currencies other than the taka.
Dutta also said Sonali Bank is now trying to realise the money through Bangladesh embassy in Turkey and the Turkish central bank.