Philippine central bank says no account holder funds lost in ‘cyber incident’

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MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippine central bank said on Thursday that no account holder funds had been lost at the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) after the state-lender reported it had suffered a “cyber incident” earlier this year.

The central bank would ensure the safety and integrity of the financial system, and the protection of financial consumers, central bank Governor Benjamin Diokno told reporters.

“The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is well-aware of the reported UCPB incident and has been in close coordination with the bank since the early part of its investigation,” Diokno said.

UCPB, the country’s 13th largest bank in asset terms, said it was reviewing and strengthening its information technology and security controls following the June incident.

“UCPB remains…a strong and profitable institution,” the bank said in a statement on Thursday.

The bank did not comment on any losses sustained, but the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that UCPB lost 167 million pesos ($3.44 million) from criminals through automated teller machine withdrawals and electronic fund transfers.

In June, the Philippines was embroiled in a scandal at German payments firm Wirecard AG, which said $2.1 billion of missing funds were deposited at two Philippine banks, a claim denied by the central bank and the lenders.

Nonetheless, the case has heightened fears that fraudsters are targeting the Southeast Asian country’s financial system.

Four years ago, unknown criminals used fraudulent orders on the SWIFT payments system to steal $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The money was sent to accounts at Manila-based Rizal Commercial Banking Corp and then vanished into Philippine casinos.

The finance ministry and the Anti-Money Laundering Council on Thursday signed a deal to work together to detect, investigate, and prosecute anyone suspected of money laundering or being involved in terrorism financing.

($1 = 48.49 Philippine pesos)

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Ed Davies)

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