Bangladesh Bank heist could have been insider job, says probe panel chief

The $81-million theft from Bangladesh Bank's account with the New York Federal Reserve Bank in February could have been carried out with active involvement of bank officials, the head of a government-appointed panel investigating the cyber heist told reporters on Monday.

The bank heist, allegedly by hackers who broke into the computer systems of the Bangladesh central bank and issued instructions through the SWIFT network to transfer $951 million of its deposits held at the New York Federal Reserve Bank to accounts in the Philippines and Sri Lanka, has in fact been an insider job, say investigators (See: Hackers steal $101 mn of Bangla money from US Fed).

Of the transactions involving transfers of $951 million only four transfers for a total of $81 million were successful, which led to criticism by Bangladeshi officials that both the Fed and SWIFT had failed to act.

"Earlier we thought no one from Bangladesh Bank was involved, but now there is a small change," Mohammed Farashuddin, a former governor of the Bangladesh central bank, said, after handing his final report to the finance minister.

Farashuddin declined to say what the change was or provide details of the report, but said its findings were different from a previous one that mainly held SWIFT, the international banking payments network, responsible for one of the world's biggest cyber thefts.

He, however, said that SWIFT could not avoid responsibility. He had earlier said SWIFT made a number of mistakes in connecting up a local network in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka. SWIFT has denied the accusations.

Finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith said the report would be made public in 15 to 20 days.

Bangladesh Bank spokesman Subhankar Saha said ''Actions will be taken as per instruction by the government if any central bank officials were found guilty'', adding that its officials had yet to read the report or receive government instructions.