Bangladesh central bank ‘complicit’

Dhaka, March 18

The Bangladesh finance minister has accused central bank officials of being complicit in an audacious $81 million theft from an overseas account, in an interview with a leading Bengali newspaper published today.

Hackers stole the money from the Bangladesh Bank’s account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on February 5 and managed to transfer it electronically to accounts in the Philippines.

In a damning interview, AMA Muhith told Bengali-language daily Prothom Alo that Bangladesh Bank officials were ‘100 per cent’ involved in scandal.

“Of course! One hundred per cent they are (involved). This cannot be possible without complicity of the locals,” the newspaper, which has the highest circulation of any in Bangladesh, quoted Muhith as saying.

Muhith said New York bank requires hand prints and other biometric information from central bank officials to activate transactions, appearing to suggest hackers could not have carried out the attack without inside help.

“The rule is that the transactions are activated only after the hand prints of the six persons are serially placed on a specified plate,” Prothom Alo quoted him as saying.

The central bank governor and his two deputies lost their jobs following the theft and government has been scrambling to contain the damage from the spiralling scandal.

Muhith said the official explanation that action against the hackers was delayed because the theft took place on a Friday, when the bank is closed, was ‘totally implausible’.

“Why won’t there be people on a Friday? There should be people to answer calls and provide information even on the holidays,” he said.

The heist has hugely embarrassed the government of PM Sheikh Hasina and raised alarm over the security of the country’s foreign exchange reserves of over $27 billion.

A version of this article appears in print on March 19, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.

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