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07th-Apr-2016

Our money, their worry

By Editorial Desk


Investigators in US$ 81 million heist case reportedly spotted that the money transfer requests to Federal Reserves in New York were made from the computer of a junior central bank official who is still on the probation.
The sensitive dealing room for money transfers as a report in a national daily said was seriously misused over the recent past. The agreement with SWIFT; which has installed a machine in Bangladesh Bank for putting safe transfer order of money required total separation of the back office which sends request from front office of the dealing room which prepares the transfer request.  
But the central bank allowed two IT officials to sit in the dealing room breaking the agreement and also allowed them to operate the SWIFT system. The bank also violated conditions with SWIFT; which said computer to be used to place transfer order should not have connection with any other computer.  
But investigators have reportedly found that some bank officials have even used the highly sensitive computer to play game, hear music and run internet connectivity. The responsibility for safety of the sensitive system lies with the governor of Bangladesh Bank and such other senior officials. They must explain what they did to ensure safety of the dealing room. They should be called for hearing to explain their role.
Insiders say the probe committee led by Dr Mohammad Farashuddin is yet to make any breakthrough but many fear that the matter may slowly lose importance as other issues are overtaking the public life. In our view all investigations must be cohesive and transparent and people must know about the development. 
It appears that most findings of the probe committee at our end are sketchy while the Philippines senate has already made significant breakthrough to identify the cyber thieves and force them to refund the money.
In senate hearing from last month some casino operators have already promised to refund part of the US$ 81 million while more investigations are under way to identify the whereabouts of the remaining money and recover it.
But what appears mysterious is that there is no Philippines like concerns at higher government level in Bangladesh, except leaving the investigations with intelligence agencies. The absence of parliamentary leadership, which the Philippines' senate hearing is giving to unearth the crime, is most noticeable at our end.
The Philippines senate is regularly calling in bank officials, casino operators, foreign currency traders and such other persons to testify their role in possessing and distributing the money to underground users ending in casinos. But our parliament is not taking any such interest. Lawmakers are maintaining total silence, to give the impression that 'our money is their worry' at the Philippines end. 
We are yet to bring senior functionaries of Bangladesh Bank and such other anti-money laundering agencies for hearing before a high powered parliamentary committee or such other body. There must be public hearing to share the truth with the nation.
The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) of Philippines will file a civil forfeiture case soon to seize and recover the assets from casinos and junket operators linked to Bangladesh money heist.
The Senate Ribbon Committee is supervising the recovery activities as their country is risking black listing as an abode of black money. Bangladesh is also facing similar risk but there is hardly any public worry about it. 
What worries us the most is the total absence of watchdog function from parliamentary bodies and other anti-graft agencies. There is no need for investigation  team to visit Philippines and Sir Lanka. Bangladesh lost tens of thousands of crore taka in the recent years and almost every investigation in such money laundering cases hardly produced any result. There was a high level plan to suppress the heist from Bangladesh's state bank. Our money is stolen but that is no worry for our government. The Governor of Bangladesh Bank was praised and not condemned by anybody in the government. All the anxieties being expressed by Philippines government.