BB Reserve Heist: Criminals from 6 nations involved

The Daily Star  February 10, 2021

Finds CID after a 5-year investigation; charge sheet once the case in US is settled

Criminals from at least six countries, including Bangladesh, have been found involved in the $81 million heist from Bangladesh Bank reserves with the New York Fed five years ago.

Several high officials of the Criminal Investigation Department of Bangladesh Police have disclosed the findings to The Daily Star after five years of investigation into the heist.

A case filed by the BB over recovery of the stolen money is now pending with the Southern District Court in New York. Once that case in the US is settled, the charge sheet in the case in Bangladesh over the biggest-ever cyber heist in history would be submitted, CID officials told this newspaper.

Confirming the development, CID chief Mahbubur Rahman, additional inspector general of police, yesterday said the probe into the BB reserve theft case was at the final stage. But a lawsuit over the recovery of the stolen money was still pending with the Southern District Court of New York.

“We have a law firm in the US. We met officials of the firm and discussed the case with them a few days ago,” the CID chief told The Daily Star.

“We will submit our charge sheet as soon as the case at the US court is settled.”

About the wait for the US court verdict, Mahbub said, “We will seek to protect the interest of our people and the country. It is our people’s money.”

After discussions with the law firm and Bangladesh’s panel of lawyers in the case, it was decided that if the case in the US was settled first, it will be much easier to bring back the money, he added.

On February 4, 2016, around $81 million was stolen from the BB account with the New York Fed. On March 15 the same year, BB Deputy Director (accounts and budgeting) Zobayer Bin Huda filed a case with the Motijheel Police Station.

THE CHARGE SHEET

Seeking anonymity, a CID high-up involved in the probe told The Daily Star yesterday that they had found the involvement of people mostly from four countries — the Philippines, China, Sri Lanka and Japan — who directly took part in the heist.

Besides, nationals working at financial institutions in Bangladesh and India were involved in the heist. Some of them are Indian nationals, who worked in international payments network SWIFT, and also BB officials, said the official.

“We have got response from all these foreign countries, except for China. Sri Lanka and Japan have given response through Interpol’s official channel,” mentioned the CID official.

On the number of people involved in the heist, Mostofa Kamal, special superintendent of CID’s financial crime unit, said the agency had so far identified around 40 people but the number could go up.

Among them, at least 25 are from the Philippines. “We are preparing charge sheet against them,” said Mostofa.

Asked how the issue would be taken up with the foreign countries whose citizens were involved in the heist, the CID chief said, “These people committed the heist, sitting in different countries. That is why the names of those countries have come up. But the state has nothing to do with it.”

CID sources said six to seven BB officials would be named in the charge sheet.

Contacted, Sirajul Islam, spokesperson for the BB, said, “The CID is yet to disclose any information to us about the BB officials’ involvement. How can we comment on the issue at this moment?”

BB CASE IN NEW YORK

On February 1, 2019, the BB filed a case with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against the Philippines’ Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) and scores of individuals,including several top executives, for their involvement in a “massive and multi-year conspiracy” to steal its money.

Abu Hena Mohd Razee Hassan, head of the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit, told The Daily Star yesterday that the court has reviewed the case and issued a summon against the people who took part in the heist from the Philippines.

“It may take one or two more months for the hearing [in the case in the US] to begin. We hope to get the results soon,” he added.

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