Long battle ahead for BB to retrieve stolen funds | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 09, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:17 AM, March 09, 2016

Long battle ahead for BB to retrieve stolen funds

BB mulls ways to retrieve $81m laundered to the Philippines

It may take several years for Bangladesh Bank to recover the fund stolen from its account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York by hackers last month and laundered to the Philippines, a central bank official said yesterday.

“The recovery process is complex and lengthy. It may take 5 to 13 years to get back the money that was hacked from our account,” said the BB official, citing examples of similar cases.

He said it took around four years for Bangladesh to recover laundered money worth over Tk 13 crore, which was deposited in Singapore by Arafat Rahman Koko, son of former Prime Minister and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia. Bangladesh began a legal process to recover the money in March 2009 and finally got it back in November 2012.

In the latest case, the BB lost a total of $101 million from its account in the US early last month. Of the amount, $20 million has already been recovered from Sri Lanka that acted promptly to identify and helped recover the money.

However, the remaining $81 million of the money hacked, which was laundered to the Philippines, remained untraced.

Investigators in the Philippines found that in the series of incidents, the money was brought into the country's banking system, sold to a black market foreign exchange broker, transferred to at least three large local casinos, sold back to the money broker, and moved out to overseas accounts – all in a few days.

According to the BB, the court's permission is required to freeze an account in the Philippines. If the account does not have adequate money in the account, the court will issue an order to freeze other assets of the culprits.

Next, the court will have to order an investigation into the matter before giving its verdict on the money laundered.

Bangladesh also has to go through a lengthy legal process to recover the money.

“First, we have to file a case under the cyber crime law, then, an investigation will begin. On the verdict of the case, we have to send documents to the Philippines through our Attorney General's Office,” said the BB official.

According to the central bank, this laundered money can be recovered through the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative, which is a partnership between the World Bank Group and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime that supports international efforts to end safe havens for corrupt funds.

“We are already in talks with the WB officials on the issue,” said another BB official dealing with the matter.   

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