Help BD recover stolen money, pursue NY Fed: WB

On February 5, 2016, cyber-robbers made off with $81 million dollars (US) after successfully executing a series of transactions that traveled through the New York Federal Reserve Bank and moved money to accounts in Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

As the process of investigating and attempting to recover the illegally purloined funds continues, the World Bank has stepped into the fray. It has proposed to help the Bangladesh Bank in its efforts to recover the stolen money and to enhance Bangladesh’s cyber security. The offer came via letter sent to the Bangladesh Bank on Sunday.

The World Bank offered to extend support to the Bangladesh Bank in its efforts to pursue resolution of this matter with the US Federal Reserve. The attack used a Federal Reserve bbforeign currency account. According to Bangladesh, the fraudulent transactions could not have occurred if the US Federal Reserve had implemented security measures capable of monitoring, tracking, and preventing the fraudulent activity.

“Meetings with the Federal Reserve and the US Department of the Treasury can be arranged during the [World Bank’s] spring meeting in the US next month,” the letter offered.

Despite finger pointing, some of the funds have already been recovered. Originally, the heist would have tallied $101 million, but some $20 million were promptly recovered from Sri Lanka. The remaining $81 million, which moved through the Philippines banking system, have not yet been recovered.

The World Bank has a program called the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR). StAR is a partnership between the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in cooperation with national banking institutions from around the world.

StAR works with developing nations and banks to prevent the laundering of ill-gotten gains and to facilitate the return of stolen assets across international borders. Bangladesh has indicated that it intends to use the program to get back the stolen funds.

“The World Bank offered to help the U.S. with its support and resources for stolen asset recovery and in taking urgent preventive measures to enhance cyber security for the [Bangladesh Bank] and the overall banking system,” a Bangladesh Bank official said. “The World Bank has also expressed willingness to extend technical assistance to the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) to enhance its capacity.”

The new governor of the Bangladesh Bank, who took over on Sunday in the midst of this controversy, noted that he intends to meet with World Bank officials soon in order to facilitate the prompt recovery of its missing funds.