Manila Bank Threatens to Countersue Bangladesh Bank over $81-Million Heist

Manila-headquartered Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) said on Thursday that it has been considering the possibility to countersue the Bangladesh Central Bank after the latter said that it would bring the Philippine bank to a New York court for its alleged involvement in the 2016 Bangladesh Bank heist.

In February 2016, security hackers tried to steal nearly $1 billion from a Bangladesh Central Bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York via as many as 35 separate transactions. The latter bank managed to stop 30 of the transactions.

However, five of them were carried out and the amount of $81 million was sent to several fictitious accounts at the RCBC as a result. The money then disappeared into the Philippines’ casino industry. The country’s gambling venues were not covered by the Anti-Money Laundering Act at the time, which practically made the heist money untraceable.

Earlier this week, the Bangladesh Bank announced that it would file a lawsuit against RCBC for its alleged participation or negligence in the crime, which was dubbed one of the largest bank heists in history.

In a Thursday statement, the Manila-headquartered bank said that they will no longer allow to be used as a scapegoat by the Bangladesh Bank to cover its own negligence in relation the massive robbery. The RCBC has previously noted that a number of probes into the heist, including ones carried out by the Bangladesh Bank itself, had indicated insiders’ job.

However, the Manila bank organization has suggested that the Bangladesh Bank has been trying to cover its own failure to prevent the heist from happening by directing public attention to the Philippines involvement in the case. The RCBC is now planning to countersue Bangladesh for its repeated attempts to mar its reputation, the bank confirmed on Thursday.

So far, Bangladesh has recovered a little over $15 million from the $81 million that were stolen and sent to the Philippines. The money was mostly retrieved from a Manila-based casino junket that was found to have somehow been involved in the heist.

Changes in the Philippines’ Anti-Money Laundering Law

After it had become clear that the money from the Bangladesh Bank robbery had disappeared into the Philippines’ casino industry, the country introduced certain changes into its anti-money laundering controls in a bid to prevent any such incidents from happening in future.

Prior to the introduction of said changes, Philippine casinos had not been covered by the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Act. As from November 2017, local gambling venues are required to report any suspicious transactions that occur on site. What is more, they need to keep comprehensive records about their patrons for at least five years and to operate know-your-customers tools in order to be able to link any suspicious transaction to the individual that has carried it out.

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