RCBC files defamation suit against Bangladesh Bank in connection with US$81 million cyber heist

Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation’s logo. Photo: RCBC’s Facebook account.
Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation’s logo. Photo: RCBC’s Facebook account.

Filipino-owned bank Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) has filed a defamation suit against Bangladesh Bank for alleging that the former was complicit in the 2016 cyberheist in which the Bangladeshi central bank lost US$81 million (PHP4.256 billion).

The suit was filed on March 6 according to various media reports but it was only made public today. RCBC filed it at the Regional Trial Court in Makati City, claiming that its reputation has been viciously attacked by the Bangladesh Bank since the heist occurred in 2016.

RCBC’s suit was served to Bangladesh Bank’s Deputy Governor Abu Hena Mohammad Razee Hasan and other officials who arrived in Manila this week for meetings with local banking officials, GMA News reported.  

According to ABS-CBN News, in its suit, RCBC accused the Bangladeshi central bank of going on a “massive ploy and scheme to extort money” from them by destroying its reputation.

RCBC’s lead lawyer Tai-Heng Cheng was quoted by The Philippine Daily Inquirer saying that the Bangladeshi’s central bank’s attacks were baseless. He added that such attacks “have harmed RCBC’s reputation as one of the best banks in the Philippines.”

“Bangladesh’s suit is nothing more than a political stunt to try to shift blame from themselves to RCBC.  The action taken today by RCBC finally puts the case in a court where — at the very least — the alleged crime took place,” Cheng said.

Three years ago, anonymous perpetrators stole US$81 million from the Bangladeshi central bank’s account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The money was sent to fake accounts in RCBC’s Jupiter St. branch in Makati, GMA News reported.  The money was then transferred to casinos, high-flying gamblers, and junket operators.

Until this day, authorities are still in the dark as to who masterminded the crime and the Bangladesh Bank has gotten back only US$15 million (PHP791.745 million).

In January, the former manager of RCBC’s Jupiter branch Maia Santos-Deguito was convicted for money laundering in connection with the crime.

Last month, the Bangladesh Bank filed a suit in New York against RCBC’s top officials for allegedly facilitating the theft of the US$81 million, reported the Wall Street Journal.

As early as 2016, RCBC was penalized by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP or Central Bank of the Philippines), ordering it to pay a PHP1 billion (US$18.926 million) fine for failing to follow banking laws and regulations in connection with the cyberheist. RCBC followed the BSP’s resolution.

Despite the fine and Deguito’s conviction, RCBC maintains the heist was an inside job perpetrated by some people working for the Bangladeshi central bank.

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