Bangladesh envoy: Bangladesh-PH relations not affected by money laundering scandal

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) – Diplomatic ties between Bangladesh and the Philippines remain strong despite the money laundering scandal involving $81 million stolen from Bangladesh Bank in February, Dhaka’s envoy to Manila said Thursday (May 19).

During the Senate’s seventh public hearing on one of the largest cyber heists in history, Bangladesh Ambassador to the Philippines John Gomes thanked the Philippine government for its determined efforts to find the culprits and recover the stolen money.

“I would like to express our deep gratitude to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that they have gone all the way on our behalf to actually find out what happened, how this money came in here,” Gomes told the senators as they resumed the probe after a one-month break to give way to the May 9 elections.

Also read: PH money laundering probe: What we know so far

“So far I can say that the bilateral relationship between Bangladesh and the Philippines has not been affected,” the Bangladeshi diplomat stressed.

He noted that the Senate probe has resulted in “successes,” including the return of some the money from casino junket operator Kim Wong.

Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) Executive Director Julia Bacay-Abad confirmed on Thursday that Wong has already fulfilled his promise to return P450 million.

Also read: AMLC files charges vs Kim Wong, Weikang Xu

This is a portion of the $81 million that hackers stole from the Bangladesh Bank’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York between February 4 and 5, and was deposited to five accounts with the RCBC before being funneled to casinos.

“I am very confident that the Philippine government will be able to recover these $81 million as soon as possible,” Gomes said.

“Whatever the Philippines is doing for us is highly regarded in Bangladesh,” the diplomat added.

Hacker not from PH or Bangladesh

Gomes said the government of Bangladesh is closely working with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to track down the hackers.  

He disclosed initial findings of the Bangladeshi government that the hacked computer belongs to a central bank official who is in the group that processes payment instructions.

Although the investigation is not yet completed, Gomes said the hacker is not from Bangladesh or the Philippines.

Also read: Bangladesh says it has identified 20 foreign suspects in cyber theft

He said the bank’s system was breached on a Friday, when the Bangladesh Bank is “totally shut down,” because it is a Muslim day of prayer.

“We have had certain news that the FBI stated that the hacker could have been from NoKor (North Korea) or from Pakistan. We do not know actually if those were authenticated or not,” he said.

Gomes said resigned Bangladesh Bank Governor Atiur Rahman took responsibility for the breach. Two other bank officials resigned, he said.