An unending delay and some inadequacies of unease

Published: 00:00, Feb 07,2021


THE extension of the deadline for the Criminal Investigation Department for the 45th time to submit its investigation report in the case that the central bank filed on March 15, 2016 with the police in connection with the theft of $101 million from the Bangladesh Bank account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York speaks of worrying failures of the Criminal Investigation Department in completing its investigation while it casts doubt on the efficiency of the agency and gives rise to speculations if the delay is wilful. Cyber thieves on February 4, 2016 transferred the amount making fraudulent orders on the SWIFT system. While the transfer of $20 million could be stopped in Sri Lanka and sent back to Bangladesh, $81 million went out of the banking channel in the Philippines. In November 2016, Manila, however, returned $15 million, which could be recovered from a junket operator there, to Bangladesh and the remaining of the amount is reported to have been laundered to the Philippine casino industry. The Bangladesh Bank on January 31, 2019 filed a case with the Federal Court of Southern District of New York for the recovery of about $66 million but the case was rejected.

The Bangladesh Bank in June 2020 filed a fresh case with the New York state court in connection with the theft of $81 million. The case is reported to be still in a primary stage although a reference is expected, which is based on a summons issued by the court to the Philippine Bloomberry Resorts Corporation, one of the 17 entities named in the case, in September 2020. The situation brings to the fore inadequacy on part of the central bank. Experts believe that Bangladesh should have started the legal battle much earlier and that the Bangladesh Bank should have engaged more with the Philippine central bank in the process of the recovery of the stolen money. A former governor has blamed the central bank for missteps that the bank has taken since 2016. Efforts to resolve the case both on the international and the domestic front having been so, the report that the government committee — set up with a former Bangladesh Bank government as its head to investigate the theft — prepared has not been made public. The committee submitted the preliminary report on April 20, 2016 and the full report on May 30, 2017 to the finance ministry. But the government has since then given various excuses for not publishing the report. The finance minister on February 19, 2019 said in the parliament that the report had not been made public to head off any influence on the ongoing CID investigation. The finance minister preceding him on several occasions also committed to making the report public. The allegations of the culpability of central bank employees in the theft — which kept coming off and on in the initial days of the investigation with SWIFT authorities — have still, meanwhile, been left unresolved.

While the government now must make its reports on the theft public, it must also ensure that the Criminal Investigation Department submits its report without further delay.

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