BB gets back $15m of stolen money from Philippines | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 13, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:00 AM, November 13, 2016

BB gets back $15m of stolen money from Philippines

The Bangladesh Bank has received $15.25 million from the Philippines' anti-money laundering council, nine months after hackers stole $81 million from the central bank's account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

On Friday, Bangladesh's ambassador to the Philippines John Gomes accepted the money in cash in presence of a two-member team of the central bank's anti-money laundering department in Manila, BB Deputy Governor Abu Hena Mohd Razee Hassan told The Daily Star.

“We hope to get back the whole amount,” he said.

The money will be deposited into the BB account with the New York Fed within a couple of days, Hassan said.

A high-powered Bangladesh delegation is scheduled to meet senior Philippine officials on November 28 to discuss further recovery of the stolen $81 million, said Gomes, according to Bloomberg.

A Philippine court in September adjudged that BB is the rightful owner of around $15 million surrendered by casino boss Kim Wong and his Eastern Hawaii Leisure Company.

The BB delegation headed by Debaprosad Debnath, general manager of the bank's Financial Intelligence Unit, went to Manila on November 7 to bring back parts of the fund.

Wong returned $4.63 million and 488.28 million pesos ($10.05 million) to Philippine authorities from the millions of dollars he took from two Chinese high-rollers. He however denied any role in one of the world's biggest cyber heists.

The $15 million recovered from the stolen total is now secure in the vaults of the Philippine central bank, said Gomes.

On February 5, hackers flooded the Fed Bank with requests for transfers totaling almost $1 billion from an account owned by the BB.

Around $101 million was successfully withdrawn before suspicions were raised. Some $20 million of this sum was quickly traced to Sri Lanka and recovered.

The rest was transferred to Philippine's Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation and from there $46 million found its way into the lightly regulated Philippine casino industry and disappeared.

According to the probe carried out by a three-member team led by former BB governor Mohammed Farashuddin, at least $54 million of the $81 million that ended up in the Philippines could be recovered.

So far, the Anti-Money Laundering Council of the Philippines has accounted for $60 million of the stolen money. Of them, $15 million has been traced to Wong, $28 million to Solaire Casino and $17 million is believed to be with Filipino remittance company Philrem, which the latter has denied.

But the remaining $21 million has yet to be traced.

In a bid to recover the rest amount, a team led by Law Minister Anisul Huq will visit Manila very soon. BB Governor Fazle Kabir and BB lawyer Ajmalul Hossain already met Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali to request him to start the procedure of the law minister's visit.

During the visit, the law minister will seek to meet Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte to speed up the process to reclaim the remainder of the stolen money, said an official of the BB.

The biggest cyber heist in the history has not only revealed the weakness in the BB's system, but also questioned the role of the NY Fed and the SWIFT.

The BB and its lawyers have suggested some of the blame lies with SWIFT, a Brussels-based cooperative of financial institutions that operates a crucial messaging system among thousands of banks.

The BB lawyers have also hinted some responsibility may lie with        the NY Fed, which stopped as suspicious most of the 35 transfer orders sent by the attackers but let five through.

Although the NY Fed and the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) denied any failures, the two joined hands with the BB in May to help Bangladesh recover the stolen money.

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