No progress in recovering stolen BB money

A file photo shows the headquarters of Bangladesh Bank in the capital Dhaka. The Bangladesh Bank has made no progress in recovering its currency reserve stolen from the US Federal Reserve Bank after a six-year incident. — New Age Photo

The Bangladesh Bank has made no progress in recovering its currency reserve stolen from the US Federal Reserve Bank after a six-year incident.

In this situation, the Supreme Court of the State of New York on April 8 issued its order on separate requests by three of the defendants to exempt them from the charges.

The Supreme Court case over the reserve heist was filed in May 2020 after the first case was dismissed by a US court in March of that year.

Pursuant to court orders, Bloomberry Resorts and Hotels and Eastern Hawaii Leisure Company are released from business, BB sources said that day.

The court, however, rejected the request of another defendant, Kim Wong, to discharge the case.

Instead, the court asked Kim Wong to respond to the lawsuit filed against the Bangladesh Bank.

Three other defendants – Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation, Lorenzo Tan and Raul Victor Tan – also asked the court to discharge them from the case.

The court has yet to issue its pleas order.

Following the dismissal of charges against two of the 20 defendants, the court would continue to prosecute the remaining defendants.

The BB said in a statement on Wednesday that it hoped the court would rule in favor of the Bangladesh Bank on the RCBC’s request to dismiss the charges against it.

Bangladesh’s Financial Intelligence Unit is conducting the trial.

On February 4, 2016, unknown hackers attempted to steal nearly $1 billion from the central bank reserve, but eventually managed to steal $101 million, including $20 million sent to a Sri Lankan account .

The caution of a Sri Lankan bank official, however, thwarted the theft of $20 million and saved Bangladesh from losing the money.

Of the stolen money, the remaining $81 million was transferred to fictitious bank accounts of Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation in the Philippines and the same was withdrawn from the bank before becoming untraceable in casinos across the country.

Manila returned $15 million following an order by a regional court in the Philippines in November 2016, while the remaining $66 million has yet to be recovered.

Nearly three years after the incident, Bangladesh’s central bank filed a lawsuit in a US district court.

Within 15 months of filing the case, the court dismissed the petition, citing that the case filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which is outside its jurisdiction.

The court later refused to accept the case on the grounds that the petition filed regarding a planned complex multi-year conspiracy as well as other issues could not be established because the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp was not present in New York.

Even more than six years after the world’s largest computer heist, none of the BB officials have been put under surveillance.

Neither the government nor the Bangladesh Bank took action against the five central bank officials who an investigation found acted negligently, knowingly or unknowingly, and failed to take prompt action after the robbery.

If the five officials had worked sincerely to protect the reserve the day after the incident, on February 5, 2016, when they noticed a malfunction in the printer dedicated to printing SWIFT messages, Bangladesh could have avoided fall victim to the biggest cyber heist in the world, observers said.

Contrary to all the punitive measures taken against negligent officials, most of them got promoted like other sincere officials.

An investigative committee headed by former BB Governor Mohammad Farashuddin has been formed, but its report has not yet been made public.

After the incident, then Governor Atiur Rahman resigned from office on March 19, 2016. The then BB governor even tried to keep the issue under the rug for almost a month.

Atiur received Rabindra Puraskar 2021 awarded by Bangla Academy on April 10.

Apart from filing cases with the US courts, the BB filed a First Information Report with the Bangladesh Police in March 2016 and the case was later transferred to the Criminal Investigation Department for investigation and the department did not not yet submitted his report to the court.