More Bangladesh Bank Heist Money Returned; 20 Suspects Identified

Jesmin Papri
Dhaka
2016-04-19
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160419-BD-officials-620 Criminal Investigation Department officials visit the Bangladesh Bank in March while investigating an $81 million heist on Feb. 4.
FocusBangla

Investigators in Bangladesh suspect that 20 foreigners participated in the cyber theft of U.S. $81 million from the country’s central bank, of which $9.8 million has been surrendered by a businessman in the Philippines.

Citizens of Sri Lanka, the Philippines, China and Japan had roles in the Feb. 4 heist, in which the money went missing after transfer orders were received and enacted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where the Bangladesh Bank has accounts, officials say.

Speaking to reporters in Dhaka on Monday, Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Additional Deputy Inspector General Shah Alam did not name the 20 suspects, citing the ongoing investigation.

Asked about any Bangladeshi national being involved, Alam said, “Those who were negligent are now citing their lack of understanding of modern technologies. We are trying to ascertain the veracity of their claim.

“This is beyond doubt that the money was stolen through hacking,” he said.

In Manila on Tuesday, casino junket operator Kim Wong handed 200 million Philippine pesos (U.S. $4.3 million) to the Philippines’ Anti Money Laundering Council (AMLC), Agence France-Press reported.

AMLC Executive Director Julia Bacay-Abad disclosed that Wong had earlier surrendered money from the heist, on March 31 and April 4, which combined with Tuesday’s sum brings the total he has returned to $9.8 million, according to rappler.com.

“This will be sent to the people of Bangladesh,” Bacay-Abad said.

Difficult to predict

The return of the money could take some time, a financial analyst told BenarNews. Bangladesh must prove to a Philippine court that the money belongs to the nation, Mirza Azizul Islam said.

“In that case, it is necessary to prove that the payment orders were fake. If that is done, the money return may not be a problem,” he said. “But the Philippines may object if the payment orders were genuine.”

He said the return also depended on the nature of evidence sought by the Philippines and how Bangladesh would satisfy those concerns.

“This is very difficult to predict, how long it will take to recover the money,” Islam said.

Bangladeshi officials learned about the heist from a Philippine newspaper report on Feb. 29 and bank officials went public on March 8, more than a month after the money went missing.

The record theft – in which hackers tried to steal up to $1 billion of Bangladeshi central bank money held in its account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York – led to the resignation of Bangladesh Bank Gov. Atiur Rahman and the sacking of two of his deputies.

In testimony to the Philippines Senate about his links to the theft, Wong blamed others for the Feb. 4 heist while agreeing to pay back millions to Bangladesh.

Wong named two Chinese nationals, Sua Hua Gao and an associate identified as Mr. Ding, who brought the money to his casino with the help of banker Maia Deguito, Wong alleged.

Wong said he and Gao met with Deguito at his office in a Manila casino in May 2015. Five accounts were opened in the bank branch managed by Deguito and the first transfer to any of those accounts occurred just days after the theft.

In the course of their investigation, Bangladeshi officials visited Sri Lanka between April 6 and 14 while another team went to the Philippines from April 6 to 15.

A legal analyst said Bangladesh would have to work with other officials in other countries to ensure that justice is carried out in the case.

“There are two ways of trying the identified foreign nationals. Either the criminals should be tried under the laws of their respective countries or they should be handed over to Bangladesh. So, Bangladesh will have to contact Sri Lanka or the Philippines,” Dr. Kazi Akhter Hamid, a senior lawyer at the Bangladesh Supreme Court and former member of the Canadian Law Commission, told BenarNews.

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