Authorities in Bangladesh claim to have identified 20 individuals connected with the theft of $81m in government funds that ended up flowing through casinos in the Philippines.
On Monday, Bangladeshi police announced that they’d identified “at least 20 people from multiple foreign countries” that had played a role in February’s digital theft of $81m from Bangladesh central bank accounts held in the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.
The money was transferred from New York to a Manila branch of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) and was subsequently transferred – despite desperate ‘stop payment’ orders from Bangladesh – to remittance firm Philrem Services Inc, which passed the funds on to two Chinese junket operators doing business with two Philippine casinos.
The Bangladeshi authorities declined to provide more info on the 20 suspects except to say that they included “Filipino, Sri Lankan and Chinese nationals.” Some Sri Lankan media outlets reported that 12 of the 20 were Philippine nationals while the rest were Sri Lankans. In addition to the $81m sent to the Philippines, the hackers had attempted to transfer $20m to Sri Lanka but officials managed to halt this payment in time.
John Gomes, Bangladesh’s ambassador to the Philippines, was quoted by Philippine media outlet InterAksyon saying that the actual hacker was “not Filipino or Bangladeshi.” Gomes declined further specifics, saying only that a “certain track record” suggested that the hacker was “someone from another [country].”
Earlier this month, authorities identified malware in the Bangladesh central bank computers that appeared to be sending data to computers in Egypt, although there’s been no further indication of any direct Middle East connection.
PHILIPPINES CENTRAL BANKER VOWS TO PUNISH THOSE RESPONSIBLE
The Philippine senate will hold its latest hearing on the matter on Tuesday. At last week’s hearing, RCBC’s CEO Lorenzo Tan claimed that his company would “set aside certain money” to compensate Bangladesh in the (likely) event that the heisted millions cannot be located.
Over the weekend, the Philippine central bank’s deputy governor Nestor Espenilla vowed that RCBC and any other financial institution involved in the scandal that is found to have acted contrary to its legal obligations “can be punished.”
Espenilla said this punishment could involve fines and the companies could be “made to stop or reduce certain businesses.” Branch managers, board directors and other execs “can also be sanctioned.”