CPD for open hearing on BB reserve heist

The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) has called for an open hearing on the Bangladesh Bank's reserve heist saying that the theft had not been discussed publicly at the state level.

“The Philippines parliament held an open hearing. Where is our standing committee on finance?” said CPD Distinguished Fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya at the Cirdap in Dhaka yesterday.

“Our parliamentary standing committee has not called for a meeting! It has not included it in the agenda and discussed,” he said, while speaking at a press conference where the think-tank presented its recommendations for the upcoming budget.

Replying to queries, the economist said the reserve heist, the first reserve theft faced by any central bank in the world, prompted debate outside the country but in Bangladesh, despite it being a democracy, the matter was not discussed publicly at the highest level.

“I don't know whether the finance minister included the issue in the agenda for the cabinet meeting and informed the prime minister and other ministers.”

The heist, which took place on February 4, came to light after a Filipino media outlet published a report at the end of that month.

“People got to know it from the foreign media. Most information came from the open hearing held at the Philippines Senate,” Debapriya said.

“The Philippines parliament discussed this matter. We have parliamentary democracy. Why the matter was not discussed in the Jatiya Sangsad?”

He said when the parliament goes into the budget session the matter should be discussed separately in the House.

“The incident has opened a scope for pondering whether there is any inconsistency in the overall governance system or economic management.” 

The economist said the BB heist incident uncovered serious lack of coordination in economic management and confusion in leadership.

“The way the finance minister spoke and the central bank and the National Board of Revenue behaved, it showed this lack of coordination.”

However, Debapriya said the amount of money that had been stolen did not seem to stir the economy. “Much bigger amount was stolen through Hall-Mark or Bismillah Group scams.”

Debapriya said the amount is not an issue. “The qualitative weight of the incident is to be taken into consideration.”

The way the money has been laundered has added a new dimension to the irregularity and misappropriation of money in Bangladesh's economy, he said.

“The incident has directly brought forward the risks in a technology-based globalised economy.”

He refrained from making any further comments, as investigation into the issue was underway and a case had been filed.

By hacking the central bank reserve account with the New York Fed, the criminals stole $81 million or around Tk 800 crore which ended up in four accounts of a Filipino bank.

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