RIZAL COMMERCIAL Banking Corp. (RCBC) filed a defamation lawsuit against the Bank of Bangladesh (Bangladesh Bank) at a lower court in connection with the $81-million cyber heist in February 2016.
In a statement sent to reporters on Tuesday, the Yuchengco-led lender said it filed a complaint against the Bangladesh central bank at the Makati City regional trial court (RTC) on March 6 for “defaming RCBC and its executives with baseless allegations of complicity” in the cyber heist of Bangladesh Bank’s funds in the New York Federal Reserve Bank in 2016.
The suit was served to Abu Hena Mohammad Razee Hasan, deputy governor and head of Bangladesh Bank Financial Intelligence Unit, and other members of the central bank’s delegation who are in Manila this week “for meetings with banking officials.”
A report from Bangladesh-based Dhaka Tribune said a team of lawyers and Bangladesh Bank officials headed to Manila this week to recover the stolen funds “through a settlement after discussion.”
“It is public knowledge that Bangladesh Bank has embarked on a massive ploy and scheme to extort money from plaintiff RCBC by resorting to public defamation, harassment and threats geared towards destroying RCBC’s good name, reputation, and image, all with the intention of getting RCBC to pay Bangladesh Bank money that RCBC does not have in its custody or possession and which it does not owe to Bangladesh Bank,” the complaint read.
The lawsuit stemmed from illegal fund transfers from the New York Fed account of Bangladesh Bank to four accounts under fictitious names opened at RCBC’s Jupiter Street branch in Makati City. The funds were withdrawn and spent in casinos, where they disappeared.
Despite the government’s assistance in tracing the missing money, only $15 million has been recovered from a junket operator.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas earlier slapped RCBC with a P1-billion fine in relation to the cyber heist.
In January, the Makati RTC convicted former RCBC branch manager Maia Santos-Deguito of eight counts of money laundering, sentencing her to imprisonment of four to seven years for each count.
“Bangladesh Bank had lost the $81 million the minute it left defendant Bangladesh Bank’s account at the NY Fed and way before it had even reached the Philippines,” RCBC’s case read. “There is absolutely no act attributable to RCBC that caused the payment instructions to reach the NY Fed and the Correspondent Banks.”
A month ago, the Bangladesh central bank filed a suit against RCBC with the US District Court in Manhattan for its involvement in what is considered as the biggest cyber heist in history.
Tai-Heng Cheng, RCBC’s lead lawyer, said the claims of Bangladesh Bank are “baseless,” harming the reputation of the bank.
“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,” Mr. Cheng was quoted as saying in the bank’s Tuesday statement.
Thea Daep, another lawyer of RCBC, added that the Yuchengco-led bank “had nothing to do with the theft of the funds and has cooperated fully with every investigation into the matter.”
RCBC shares closed at P26.50 apiece on Tuesday, down by five centavos or 0.19%. — Karl Angelo N. Vidal