The new governor of Bangladesh’s central bank has sent formal letters to the New York Fed, as well as central bank and money laundering chiefs in the Philippines, asking them to help recover its stolen $81mn, a senior central bank
official said yesterday.
The news came as Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith said the government was waiting to hear the recommendations of an investigation committee to decide whether the central bank should file a suit against the Fed after one of the biggest cyber heists in history.
Unknown hackers breached the computer systems of Bangladesh Bank (BB) in early February and attempted to steal $951mn from its account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which it uses for international settlements.
Some attempted transfers were blocked, but $81mn was transferred to accounts in the Philippines belonging to casino operators.
The central bank official said that Fazle Kabir, who became governor a week ago, had asked the NY Fed chief and the heads of the Philippines central bank and money laundering agency to assist Bangladesh in retrieving the funds.
Kabir asked the Fed to investigate if there had been any lapses or whether it had any involvement in the heist, the official said.
Kabir sent separate letters to the ambassador of Bangladesh at the UN headquarters, and its permanent representative, urging them to pursue the NY Fed.
The previous central bank governor, Atiur Rahman, resigned earlier this month after details emerged in the Philippines that $30mn of the money was delivered in cash to a casino junket operator in Manila, while the rest went to two casinos.
“In his letters the new governor sought all kind of help from them to retrieve the stolen money as we are following multiple efforts for the sake of the country,” the official said.
Last week Bangladesh also formally sought assistance from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to track down the cyber crooks.
Bangladesh has appointed law firms to weigh its options vis-à-vis the NY Fed.
“We will wait till the recommendations of the government-formed investigation committee,” Finance Minister Muhith said yesterday, referring to a three-member committee headed by Mohammad Farash Uddin, a former central bank governor.
“We will act as per its recommendations.”
Earlier this month Muhith said Dhaka might resort to suing the Fed to recover the money: “The Fed must take responsibility,” he said.
Last week, Bangladesh Bank hired a US lawyer for a potential lawsuit against the NY Fed.
After the report surfaced in Dhaka, US Representative Carolyn Maloney called for a probe of last month’s cyberattack on Bangladesh Bank.
“This brazen heist from the Bangladesh central bank’s account at the New York Fed threatens to undermine the confidence that foreign central banks have in the Federal Reserve, and in the safety and soundness of international monetary transactions,” Maloney, a New York Democrat, said in a statement.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation is helping investigate the heist, which led to the ouster of Bangladesh’s central bank governor.
Maloney also sent a letter to New York Fed president William Dudley, requesting a private meeting with bank staff to discuss the cyber fraud.
She said she wants to ask a series of questions, including whether it is appropriate to rely solely on the SWIFT global bank messaging system to authenticate outgoing payments from foreign central bank accounts. Her comments are the first sign that the attack could gain political traction in the United States. The New York Fed has faced separate political criticism since the financial crisis for missteps and perceived conflicts of interest in its role as the central bank’s top Wall Street regulator.
“We fully intend to reach out to the congresswoman and will endeavor to address her questions,” a New York Fed spokeswoman said.
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