A security guard stands guard outside a branch of Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation in Manila. Photo: Reuters/Erik De Castro
A security guard stands guard outside a branch of Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation in Manila. Photo: Reuters/Erik De Castro

Philippines charges bankers for ignoring cyber heist

Anti-money laundering body accuses five RCBC officials and a former treasurer of helping US$1 billion to vanish from Bangladesh's central bank

November 23, 2016 5:10 PM (UTC+8)

An anti-money laundering body in the Philippines has filed charges against five officials of RCBC bank and a former treasurer who “wilfully ignored” suspicious activity that led to tens of millions of dollars vanishing after a heist on Bangladesh’s central bank.

Unknown cyber criminals tried to steal nearly US$1 billion from the Bangladesh Bank in February in what was one of the world’s biggest bank heists.

They succeeded in transferring US$81 million via an account at the New York Federal Reserve to four accounts in fake names at a branch of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp in Manila. Most of the cash was quickly withdrawn and laundered through multiple channels.

In a 97-page complaint to the justice ministry, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) said former RCBC treasurer Raul Tan, three retail banking officials, and two workers at the branch where cash was withdrawn were guilty of money laundering because they should have noticed something was wrong and intervened immediately.

Only about US$15 million has been recovered and returned to Bangladesh, with a further US$2.7 million frozen. The rest of the funds changed hands several times and vanished in the Philippines casino industry.

No arrests have been made despite investigations by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, Interpol, Bangladesh police and authorities in the Philippines.

Tan resigned as the bank’s treasurer in April.

Long-time RCBC client, casino owner and agent Kim Wong had admitted during a Philippines Senate inquiry that he received millions of the loot from two Chinese gamblers but did not know it was stolen. He denies involvement in the heist and has returned US$15 million of around US$35 million he said he received.

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