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Report: Bangladesh Bank plans to sue Philippine lender, asks NY Fed to join

Bangladesh Bank plans to sue Manila-based Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., or RCBC, for its involvement in a US$81 million cyberheist in 2016, and has asked the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to join the planned lawsuit, Reuters reported Dec. 8, citing several unnamed sources.

The Bangladesh central bank aims to file the case in New York by March or April 2018 to recover funds stolen from its account with the New York Fed, one of the sources said. The bank held talks with the New York Fed and the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, in November about a potential lawsuit against RCBC, and is hoping to bring in the two parties as petitioners in the case.

The New York Fed agreed to review a proposal from Bangladesh Bank regarding the case, but has not formally agreed to join the planned lawsuit.

In February 2016, hackers stole about US$81 million from Bangladesh Bank's account in New York and redirected the money to accounts at an RCBC branch in Manila. The money later disappeared into the country's casino industry, with only about US$15 million recovered so far.

Philippines regulators fined RCBC a record 1 billion pesos for its involvement in the case. Internal documents from the bank seen by Reuters showed that the bank ignored suspicions raised by some of its officials when the money was first remitted to the accounts. It also showed that the bank delayed acting on requests from the bank's head office to freeze the funds on Feb. 9, 2016.

Philippine prosecutors later filed money laundering charges against a former manager of the bank and four unidentified people who own the bank accounts used in the heist.

A spokesman for Bangladesh Bank said "efforts are on to recover the entire stolen money," but noted that he has no idea of plans to file a lawsuit against RCBC. The New York Fed and SWIFT declined to comment, while RCBC did not respond to Reuters' requests for comment.

Meanwhile, a Bangladesh court has sent letters to the U.S. to ask for findings of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation into the case. An FBI spokeswoman said the agency could not comment on ongoing cases.

As of Dec. 7, US$1 was equivalent to 50.63 Philippine pesos.