Breaking the bank – the aftermath of the largest cyber-heist in history
In the 21st century, bank robbers seldom conjure the images of a cat burglar in the dead of night, making a quick getaway with sacks of loot. They can now take much more than they could ever conceivably carry without having to leave the comfort of their own homes. And in February of this year, one such heist left the Bangladeshi bank’s account at the Federal Reserve in New York considerably slimmer, when hackers attempted to steal $1 billion, successfully looting $81 million by flooding the Fed’s system with transfer requests.
In a turn of events worthy of a courtroom audience, the money was traced back to four accounts held under false names at the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation in Manila, Philippines. $15 million was recovered after it was traced back to casino owner Kim Wong. Wong is said to be cooperating with the investigation, though he reportedly received more than $30 million from two ‘high rolling’ Chinese businessmen to whom the funds are attributed to.
With the events unfolding last week, it appears a courtroom audience may indeed be involved, as criminal charges are to be brought against six individuals holding various positions with the bank, including former Treasurer Raul Tan, who resigned in April. In a complaint issued by the Anti-Money Laundering Council to the Justice Department on November 18th, Tan and five others were heavily scrutinized for not filing suspicious transaction reports and for their complacency in failing to augment due diligence screening and programs in the face of very apparent and growing concerns.
In a public statement, RCBC declared that their own internal investigation has highlighted no wrongdoing. Perhaps the largest challenge to prosecutors has been the exemption of casinos in the Philippines from anti-money laundering legislation, creating a vast and largely unmonitored for illicit dealings. At the time of writing, no arrests have been made, despite investigations by the Philippine and Bangladeshi governments, and Interpol.