Bangladesh cen­tral bank 'com­plicit' in heist: min­is­ter

The Pak Banker - - COMPANIES/BOSS -

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 Fri­day.

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, A.M.A Muhith told the Ben­gali-lan­guage daily Prothom Alo that Bangladesh Bank of­fi­cials were "100 per­cent" in­volved in the scan­dal.

"Of course! One hun­dred per­cent 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 the New York bank re­quires hand prints and other bio­met­ric in­for­ma­tion from cen­tral bank of­fi­cials to ac­ti­vate trans­ac­tions, ap­pear­ing to sug­gest the 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 the 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 Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina and raised alarm over the se­cu­rity of the coun­try's for­eign ex­change re­serves of over $27 bil­lion.

Sub­hankar Saha, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor and spokesman of Bangladesh Bank, told AFP he was not im­me­di­ately able to com­ment when asked about the min­is­ter's re­marks.

The min­is­ter's com­ments came as the fam­ily of a Bangladeshi cy­ber se­cu­rity ex­pert who crit­i­cised the cen­tral bank over its se­cu­rity sys­tem and said it bore some re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack went miss­ing, his fam­ily said Fri­day.

IT ex­pert Tan­vir Has­san Zoha, who said he was help­ing the govern­ment in­ves­ti­gate the crime, told a lo­cal TV sta­tion last week that "ap­a­thy" over se­cu­rity at Bangladesh Bank had con­trib­uted to the au­da­cious theft.

Zoha has not been seen since Wed­nes­day night when he was picked up on his way home from work in the cap­i­tal Dhaka, his wife Kam­run Na­har said, cit­ing a friend who was with him. "Sev­eral men in plain­clothes stopped their auto-rick­shaw and put them in two dif­fer­ent ve­hi­cles. Later they dropped Yamir (Zoha's friend) on a road blind­folded but took Zoha with them," Na­har told AFP.

"We've not heard any­thing from him since then," the wife said, say­ing po­lice had not filed a case on her hus­band's dis­ap­pear­ance.

Zoha, 34, told Ekat­tor TV sta­tion on March 11 that "the data­base ad­min­is­tra­tor of the (Bangladesh Bank) server can­not avoid re­spon­si­bil­ity for such hack­ing".

The govern­ment com­mit­tee prob­ing the case had "no­ticed ap­a­thy about the se­cu­rity sys­tem (of the server)", he said.

Au­thor­i­ties have de­nied that Zoha was work­ing with them on in­ves­ti­gat­ing the case. Po­lice have yet to make any com­ment on his dis­ap­pear­ance. Home Min­is­ter Asaduz­za­man Khan told re­porters Thurs­day that it was pos­si­ble Zoha could have been picked up by law en­forcers in the course of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but said he had no in­for­ma­tion.

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