The Philippines and Bangladesh are still arguing over cyber bank heist funds

Commuters pass by the front of the Bangladesh central bank building in Dhaka March 8, 2016. REUTERS/Ashikur Rahman/Files

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippine government wants Bangladesh to share the findings of its investigation into how unknown hackers pulled off one of the world’s largest cyber bank heists, to help speed up recovery of the stolen funds.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, who last week met with a Bangladesh delegation, said Manila “strongly recommended” Dhaka share the results of its investigation. He assured the visitors the government was doing it everything it could to find Bangladesh’s missing money.

Cyber criminals tried to steal nearly $1 billion from Bangladesh Bank in February and made off with $81 million via an account at the New York Federal Reserve. That money was transferred to four accounts with false names at one RCBC branch in Manila before vanishing.

“We are pursuing the lawsuits on your behalf as vigorously as we can,” Dominguez was quoted in a statement as telling the delegation.

Bangladesh Bank has declined to disclose the findings of its own inquiry, saying it wanted to deny perpetrators knowledge of the investigation.

Most of the money was laundered through Philippine casinos. About $15 million recovered from a gaming junket operator has been returned to Bangladesh, with a further $2.7 million frozen.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who had earlier pledged the stolen money would be returned, cancelled a meeting with the Bangladesh team because of “pressing matters”.

Asked if the findings of the probe would be shared with the Philippines government, Bangladesh’s ambassador in Manila, John Gomes, said: “No one asked us anything yet.”

But Philippine central bank deputy governor Nestor Espenilla said Manila had received an assurance from Bangladesh it would provide an “initial update” since the investigation was not yet finished.

Bangladesh has said it wanted RCBC, or the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC), to compensate it for its losses, but RCBC refuses to pay and has said the Bangladesh central bank was “negligent”.

Bangladesh’s Law Minister Anisul Huq last week said RCBC should shoulder the burden for accepting stolen funds.RCBC was fined a record one billion pesos ($20 million) by the Philippine central bank for its failure to prevent the movement of the stolen Bangladesh money through its bank. Huq said paying that fine was tantamount to accepting culpability.

An anti-money laundering body last month filed charges against five RCBC officials in connection with the theft.

No arrests have been made despite investigations by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Interpol, Bangladesh police and authorities in the Philippines.

(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty and Eric Meijer)

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