RCBC accuses Bangladesh central bank of cover-up

MANILA, Philippines – Yuchengco-led Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) accused Bangladesh Bank (BB) of a cover-up, following the multimillion-dollar heist in 2016.

In a statement on Tuesday, December 12, RCBC said the Bangladesh central bank must be compelled to report the findings of its own internal investigation.

"Last year's theft of $81 million of BB's funds was an inside job and BB is engaging in a massive cover-up by maligning RCBC and refusing to divulge its findings," RCBC said.

"At least from 5 reports – SWIFT; FireEye, an international cyber security outfit; Bangladesh's own finance minister; its government-appointed panel; and a Bangladeshi expert – point to a conclusion that somebody inside BB would have made the heist possible," it added.

The Yuchengco-led bank also said it was reported that BB had no firewall to protect its system and used secondhand $10 switches, making itself vulnerable to hackers. The hackers also did trial runs but BB allegedly did nothing to protect its system.

"Bangladesh police investigated some BB people but only for negligence. Up to now, we do not know if anybody has been taken to court," RCBC said.

Hackers tried to steal close to $1 billion from the Bangladesh Bank account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in February last year. The US bank was able to stop 30 of the 35 transactions.

However, 5 transactions involving $81 million entered the Philippines via RCBC through fictitious accounts. The funds were laundered through several casinos as these were not yet covered by the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) then.

'Wipe RCBC out'

Bangladesh's finance minister was quoted in reports over the weekend to have said that he wanted to "wipe RCBC out" over its role in the affair – a statement that RCBC called "extremely irresponsible."

"BB should stop making RCBC its scapegoat. RCBC has revealed everything it legally could to the Senate and to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP); BB, however, has concealed everything it could. The contrast is telling," RCBC said.

As for BB wanting RCBC to return the stolen money, the Philippine bank replied: "If it was stolen by your own people, why ask us? We are actually a victim of BB's negligence."

RCBC was fined a record P1 billion by the BSP over its role in the scandal, which also led to the resignation of RCBC president and chief executive officer Lorenzo Tan who was eventually replaced by former Development Bank of the Philippines president Gil Buenaventura.

RCBC said it received the funds in good faith because these were cleared and authenticated by the New York Fed and SWIFT, whose secure communications system is used by banks all over the world for their transactions.

Three global banks – Citibank, Bank of New York Mellon, and Wells Fargo – remitted the funds to RCBC. – Rappler.com