Manila, Phillipines (BBN)-Three months after an $81million (£55million) cyber heist much of the money has not been recovered and a source has told the Mail Online the ‘masterminds’ will never be found because they are ‘untraceable’.
Between February 5 and 10 someone tried to pull off 35 bank transfers, totalling $951million (£651million) from the Bangladesh National Bank’s account at the US Federal Reserve, reports the Daily Mail.
They only succeeded in transferring the $81million, all of which ended up in accounts with the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC) in the Philippines.
Within days much of the money was withdrawn and laundered in casinos in and around the Filipino capital Manila.
One of those involved was Kim Wong, a gambling junket operator in Manila, who has admitted receiving around $15million from two Chinese nationals.
Kim Wong told a Philippine Senate hearing last week he was merely acting as an interpreter when one of the two men asked the manager of a RCBC branch to open the accounts where the money eventually ended up.
Wong told the hearing: ‘I had nothing to do with the actual opening of accounts.I had nothing to do with the falsification of bank documents so the money could get in, and I don’t know where the $81million came from.’
Last month the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Transactions (SWIFT) denied its systems were at fault for the heist.
SWIFT’s chief executive Alain Raes said: ‘We have very strong certainty that our system has never been compromised. We are very sure that there is no breach at all in the network.
The Bangladesh job was the first of three cyber heists using SWIFT this year and on Friday SWIFT contacted their customers, saying: ‘We are currently working to further reinforce our support to customers in securing their access to the SWIFT network.’
SWIFT is a cooperative of 3,000 members which operates a messaging system which oversees millions of global cash transfers every day and many financial institutions rely on the system to do business.
Despite the three heists this year SWIFT insists the messaging service itself has not been breached.
If it sounds complicated it is because it is.
And that works to the advantage of the criminals.
A source told the Mail Online the Bangladesh cyber heist had taken over a year to plan and was not just the work of one ‘mastermind’.
‘Freddie’ said: ‘These guys are in India, maybe they’re using proxies. That’s why they haven’t found them. They are located directly in the centre of India and some are off the coast. They are technically untraceable though.’
He said: ‘These guys can go easily dark and leave the media within about 2-3 minutes.’
‘Freddie’ said the authorities might have recovered most of the money but not all of it and he added: ‘These guys only needed about $15million to be set for life.’
Although several key individuals in Manila have been identified nobody has been arrested.
Bangladesh’s Ambassador to the Philippines, John Gomes, said: ‘I’m very confident the Philippines will recover all $81million stolen funds. I don’t want this to drag on forever.’
Julia Bacay-Abad, executive director of the Philippines’ Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), said $15million had been turned over to them by Kim Wong.
She said another $28million was still with the Solaire casino resort in Manila, while $17million was with PhilRem (Philippines Remittances Ltd), a company that deals with billions of dollars sent home to the Philippines by Filipino workers abroad.
Ms Bacay-Abad said another $21million was believed to be somewhere in the casino system
Wong told a Philippine Senate hearing last week he was merely acting as an interpreter when one of the two men asked the manager of a RCBC branch to open the accounts where the money eventually ended up.
Augustus ‘Ace’ Esmeralda, a Manila private investigator, told Reuters it should not be seen as hacking a bank: ‘It’s more a case of somebody stealing the money employing a hacker, and someone who knows banks, the anti-money laundering system, the casinos…It’s the modern day Ocean’s 11. I call it Manila 12.’
BBN/SK/AD