Govt probe hints at BB officials' links
A government panel probing the $101 million Bangladesh Bank heist blamed the theft on SWIFT again and hinted for the first time at the involvement of central bank officials in its final report submitted yesterday.
Former BB governor Mohammed Farashuddin, who led the panel, handed the report to Finance Minister AMA Muhith at the secretariat.
“Initially, it appeared that none from the BB was involved,” Farashuddin said. But some changes came up, which were included in the report.
The report also contains an analysis of how SWIFT was responsible for the cash flowing out of the BB's account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
“SWIFT will never be able to evade its responsibility. But we have to solve our future problems with the help of SWIFT,” said the chief of the probe body.
The committee was formed on March 15 more than a month after hackers had stolen the money from the BB's account.
It was asked to look into how the illegal payment instructions had been issued from Bangladesh Bank and to whom, and examine whether the steps taken by the central bank to stop the payment against the fake orders were appropriate.
The two other members of the committee were Mohammad Kaykobad of the computer science and engineering department at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and Gokul Chand Das, additional secretary of the Bank and Financial Institutions Division.
The government gave three months' time to the panel to complete the investigation and submit a report.
The committee submitted an interim report on April 20.
Farashuddin said the final report to a great extent contradicts the interim report because the first one was prepared and submitted in haste.
About 90 percent of the interim report has been changed, he said, crediting the radical changes to the contribution made by three teachers of BUET -- a former professor and two associate professors -- after the submission of the interim report.
The former governor also said it was not possible for the committee to find out the external cyber criminals involved in the theft.
The probe body gave an outline as to how much money could be recovered.
“We have given an encouraging picture,” Farashuddin said.
“The report highlights the sort of involvement on the side of Bangladesh Bank,” he said, without elaborating further.
Asked whether the report had been prepared under any pressure, the panel chief answered in the negative.
Upon receiving the report, Muhith told reporters that the main objective of the report was to bring in internal discipline.
“We have so many lacuna and faults. The main goal was to highlight them.”
He, however, declined to comment on the findings, saying that it would be public in about 20 days after he reads it.
Muhith said he would not get any scope to go through the report before the announcement of the annual budget on June 2.
On February 5-10, hackers tried to pull off 35 bank transfers, totalling $951million from the BB account with the Fed.
They succeeded in transferring $81 million, all of which ended up at Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation in the Philippines. Within days, much of the money was withdrawn and laundered through casinos in and around the Filipino capital Manila.
Kim Wong, a gambling junket operator in Manila, who admitted to receiving around $15million from two Chinese nationals, has given the money back to the Philippines' Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
The AMLC said another $28 million was still with the Solaire casino resort in Manila and $17 million with PhilRem, a remittance company. Another $21 million was believed to be somewhere in the casino system.
The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Transactions (SWIFT) denied that its systems were at fault for the heist. The New York Fed also rejected claims that it had executed five payment orders without receiving confirmation it sought from the BB, which caused Bangladesh to lose the money.
Earlier in May, BB Governor Fazle Kabir met New York Fed President William Dudley and senior SWIFT officials in Switzerland in an effort to expedite the recovery of the stolen funds. The parties said they would work together to trace the funds still missing.