THE Criminal Investigation Department which was investigating the theft of $101 million from the Bangladesh Bank’s account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has yet to submit its report. The investigators were scheduled to submit the report to the Dhaka metropolitan magistrate’s court on Wednesday. The central bank’s deputy director in charge of accounts and budgeting filed the case, under the Money Laundering Prevention Act and the Information and Communications Technology Act, with the Motijheel police on March 15, 2016. But as the investigators failed to do so, the court has now posted the CID report submission for May 21. Cyber thieves on February 4, 2016 transferred the amount making fraudulent orders on the SWIFT payment system. While the transfer of $20 million could stopped in Sri Lanka and sent back to Bangladesh, $81 million went out of the banking channel in the Philippines. Manila in November 2016, however, returned $15 million, which could be recovered from a Manila junket operator, to Bangladesh and the remaining of the amount is reported to have been laundered to the Philippine casino industry. The committee that the government set up to investigate the theft submitted its reports to the finance ministry but the reports have not been made public.
The panel that the government set up, with the former Bangladesh Bank governor Mohammed Farashuddin as its head, submitted its preliminary report on April 20, 2016 and the full report on May 30, 2017 to the finance ministry. But the reports have not been made public on various excuses. The then finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith is reported to have said in August 2017 that the findings would be made public after the recovery of the remaining amount and after the lawsuit in the Philippines was settled. AHM Mustafa Kamal, the current finance minister, is, however, reported to have said in the parliament this February that the report would not be made public as its findings could influence the investigation that the Criminal Investigation Department was carrying out. The Bangladesh Bank, meanwhile, filed a case for the recovery of about $66 million, out of $81 million in reality transferred, with the Federal Court for Southern District of New York on January 31, 2019. The case was filed against seven institutions, 15 individuals and 25 more unnamed individuals. Although central bank at a briefing at its headquarters in Dhaka on February 3 said that it could take three years to resolve the case, people are still in the dark about what happened in the theft.
The delay in the CID investigation report coupled with the central bank investigation report not being made public only leaves scope for people to infer that the authorities are out to save certain people from being ensnared in the case. Citizens have every right to know what happened in the theft and what the investigations have come up with. While the government, in such a situation, must make the central bank reports public, it must also ensure that the Criminal Investigation Department this time submit the report.
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