Philippines seeks Bangladesh help on $81 million cyber-heist

Bangladesh has accused Chinese hackers of moving the money. In photo: Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC) branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito takes an oath during a senate hearing in Manila on March 15, 2016. Photograph:( AFP )

Manila, NCR, Philippines Dec 04, 2016, 11.12 AM (IST)

The Philippines has asked Bangladesh to share details of its investigation into an $81 million cyber-heist from the Bangladesh central bank after the proceeds ended up in Manila, the finance department said Sunday.

The money was shifted electronically from the Bangladesh central bank's account with the US Federal Reserve to a Manila branch of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp, from where it was funnelled into local casinos in February.

Officials from both countries met in Manila last week to discuss efforts to recover the rest of the funds. 

The Bangladeshi delegation thanked the Philippines for returning $15 million, the finance department said in a statement.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and other Philippine officials "strongly recommended that Bangladesh share with the Department of Justice and the Anti-Money Laundering Council the results of their investigation into the cyber-heist," the statement added.

This would help speed up recovery efforts in the courts, it added.

"The Bangladesh officials said progress has been made in the investigation and that it would send the government whatever updates they have on the probe," the department added.

Last month the Philippines said it had launched criminal proceedings against six Filipino bankers accused of failing to stop the laundering of the money.

The complaint also cited the Filipino respondents' alleged "deliberate refusal to know the unlawful origins of the funds".

No one has been arrested in the Philippines over the heist but the government has recovered the $15 million, some of it from a Manila-based casino operator who has pledged to cooperate with the criminal enquiry.

The brazen cyber-heist highlighted how the Philippines' banking loopholes have made the corruption-prone nation a destination for dirty money.

Philippine law exempts casino transactions from scrutiny by the country's anti-money laundering council unless a case has been filed in court.

(AFP)