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Inside story

By Jullie Y. Daza

WAS anybody in Bangko Sentral or the Department of Finance shocked when they read a statement attributed to the finance minister of Bangladesh that he will “wipe out” a Filipino bank for an $81 million cyber attack that happened two years ago?

On top of that threat, a deputy governor of Bangladesh Central Bank (BB) gave notice that a suit will be filed in a few months against RCBC for its role in the cyberheist. RCBC fired back, promising to take legal action if they do not stop blaming the bank. “RCBC has had it,” and demanded that BB immediately “submit its findings to court” and “identify and sue the persons responsible in its central bank.”

Professionals not connected with RCBC do not want to be quoted, but anyone with a knowledge of the intricacies of banking procedures smelled an inside job, which was the same conclusion arrived at by investigators here and abroad, including those in the New York Fed, where the money was deposited. Moving such a huge amount through cyberspace could only have been possible if a fortress of security features had been breached and the password stolen or illegally accessed. If this were a movie, the hero’s job would be as exciting as tracking down anyone with a possible link to anyone with access to the code, and then by a process of elimination, clearing everyone but the one.

Obviously, real-life banking is much more abstruse and obscurantist, but what can be more abstruse or obscurantist than not wanting to dig up the facts, and once uncovered, bare them and share them? In RCBC’s view, the Bangladeshi bank’s refusal “to release their findings” suffers by comparison with the Philippine case, where round after round of headlines spewed out of investigations done by a score of government agencies, topped off by jawdropping hearings conducted in the Senate.

RCBC was penalized by our central bank to the tune of one billion pesos in 2016 even before the mastermind of the heist could be identified – the accounts were under falsified names – and loopholes in the anti-money laundering law eventually came to light.

And still the mystery deepened, though not to RCBC, pointing to a “coverup” to protect the culprits, the so-called “criminal elements from within.”