Bangladesh panel finds possible insider role in central bank cyber theft

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The SWIFT logo is pictured in this photo illustration taken April 26, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/Illustration/File Photo
The SWIFT logo is pictured in this photo illustration taken April 26, 2016.

Reuters/Carlo Allegri/Illustration/File Photo

Officials of Bangladesh Bank may have been involved in a brazen theft of $81 million from its account with the New York Federal Reserve Bank in February, the head of a government-appointed panel investigating the cyber heist told reporters on Monday.

Hackers broke into the computer systems of the Bangladesh central bank and issued instructions through the SWIFT network to transfer $951 million of its deposits held at the New York Federal Reserve Bank to accounts in the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

Most of the transactions were blocked but four went through, amounting to $81 million, sparking allegations by Bangladeshi officials that both the Fed and SWIFT had failed to detect the fraud.

“Earlier we thought no one from Bangladesh Bank was involved, but now there is a small change,” Mohammed Farashuddin, a former governor of the Bangladesh central bank, said, after handing his final report to the finance minister.

He declined to say what the change was.

Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith said the report would be made public in 15 to 20 days.

Farashuddin declined to provide details of the report, but said its findings were different from a previous one that mainly held SWIFT, the international banking payments network, responsible for one of the world’s biggest cyber thefts.

He reiterated that SWIFT could not avoid responsibility, however. He has earlier said SWIFT made a number of mistakes in connecting up a local network in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital.

SWIFT has denied the accusations.

Bangladesh Bank spokesman Subhankar Saha said its officials had yet to read the report or receive government instructions.

“The Bangladesh Bank management will follow all instructions given by the government,” Saha told Reuters. “Actions will be taken as per instruction by the government if any central bank officials were found guilty.”

(Reporting by Krishna N. Das and Ruma Paul; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)