Philippines asks Bangladesh for cyber heist probe results

The Finance Secretary of Philippines, Carlos Dominguez has asked Bangladesh government to share the findings of its investigation into how unknown hackers pulled off one of the world’s largest cyber bank heists, to help speed up recovery of the stolen funds.

Dominguez and other Philippine officials who met with a Bangladesh high-level delegation last week led by Anisul Huq assured them that Philippines was committed to help find the cash.

Philippines has already recovered $15 million from $81 million heist from a gaming junket operator and the delegation thanked them for this generous effort.

The money recovered was returned to Bangladesh, with a further $2.7 million frozen.

Cyber criminals tried to steal nearly $1 billion from Bangladesh Bank in February and made off with $81 million via an account at the New York Federal Reserve. The money stolen was authenticated by the SWIFT message system, widely used by financial institutions. The money was transferred to four accounts with false names at one RCBC branch in Manila before vanishing. Most of the money was laundered through Philippine casinos.

The episode highlighted vulnerable links in the payment network underlying the global financial system.

Bangladesh Bank has declined to disclose the findings of its own inquiry, saying it wanted to deny perpetrators knowledge of the investigation.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who had earlier pledged the stolen money would be returned, cancelled a meeting with the Bangladesh team because of “pressing matters”. Meanwhile, when Bangladesh’s ambassador in Manila, John Gomes was asked if the findings of the probe would be shared with the Philippines government he said: “No one asked us anything yet.”

However, Philippine central bank deputy governor Nestor Espenilla said that Bangladesh officials have committed to send initial updates on the probe to strengthen Philippines case in the court which it was fighting on behalf of Bangladesh.

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