Case to be filed against RCBC by April: Muhith

The government will sue the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation of the Philippines by April for its role in the cyber heist of $81 million from the central bank's account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

“We have taken decision to file a case against the Rizal Bank and we will do it by April,” Finance Minister AMA Muhith told reporters yesterday after an inter-ministerial meeting on the matter.

Law Minister Anisul Huq and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal were present at the meeting.

However, officials at the central bank and the Criminal Investigation Department investigating the case told The Daily Star requesting anonymity that it cannot be stated yet when the lawsuit would be filed.

But it will be done before February 2019, which would be three years from the event -- and the time limit for filing a case with a New York court.

To file the case, the CID has to provide a charge sheet in the court, which the department has not yet gotten round to doing.

The CID is being held up by non-cooperation of countries whose citizens were allegedly involved in the heist.

Citizens from as many as nine countries, including the Philippines, Sri Lanka, China and Japan, are involved in the heist, one of the biggest in history.

Over the last ten months, investigators have sent letters to the countries seeking particulars of some 40 suspects, but only the Philippines have responded.

At the meeting it was decided that the foreign ministry will look to bring response from the countries. If that does not work, the CID will close the process and submit the charge sheet.

The case will be filed in New York and a law firm based in the city will be appointed to fight the case, according to Muhith.

“We want to make the New York Fed a party with Bangladesh in the case,” he said.

A proposal has been sent to the NY Fed but it is yet to respond, said a banking division official.

If no response is obtained in the near future, the BB governor may hold a meeting with the NY Fed in New York in April, he added.

“A case has to be filed,” Kamal told reporters after the meeting.

At the same time, the process of recovering the money would continue. Meeting sources said the CID has been asked to submit a report to the Philippines court by this month.

A team of the BB and the CID went to the Philippines  on a six-day visit on January 30 to know about the latest status of the cases for recovery of the stolen money and preparation of the necessary documents for filing the case.

After their return, the inter-ministerial meeting was held.

On February 4, 2016, hackers broke into the BB's systems and generated 70 fake payment orders for the NY Fed to draw about $1.94 billion.

While the NY Fed's security system flagged the payment orders, five of them fell through, and $101 million against them was released. Of the amount, $81 million was wired to the Philippines (RCBC branch in Manila) and $20 million to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka sent back the entire sum immediately and the Philippines just $15 million in November 2016.

Of the $67 million yet to be retrieved, the Philippines authorities could trace $52.50 million, which is now in possession of several individuals and companies.

The holders of the remaining $14.50 million could not be traced.

Asked why the central bank would file the case at the US court and not the Philippines, Muhith said both the SWIFT and NY Fed are in New York and RCBC has a number of subsidiaries there.

On his return from the Philippines, Abu Hena Mohd Razee Hassan, a deputy governor of the central bank, told reporters at a press briefing on February 7 that a case will be filed against RCBC in two to three months' time with a New York Court.


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