DHAKA, Bangladesh — Police met an FBI official here in the capital of Bangladesh on Sunday to try to track down culprits behind an attempted $951 million cyberheist from the country’s central bank.
Initial investigations aim to identify the origin of a transfer order for $81 million that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York paid from Bangladesh Bank’s account there to casinos in the Philippines, a senior police official told reporters.
The transfer, one of the largest cyberheists in history, was among 35 requests that unknown hackers made for payments from the bank’s New York Fed account in early February.
Other requested transfers from that account, which the country uses for international settlements, apparently were blocked.
Former finance secretary Fazle Kabir took over Sunday as head of the central bank after Atiur Rahman, the former governor, resigned amid complaints from the government that it had learned of the heist only a month later from the media.
Also Sunday, the wife of a cybercrime expert reported that her husband, Tanvir Hassan Zoha, had been abducted early Thursday. He had met with police Tuesday and told the media that he knew three of the user IDs used in the heist.
Senior police official Mirza Abdullahel Baqui said after meeting the FBI official that criminals in six countries apparently were involved in the heist.
“This is the biggest transnational organized crime ever seen in Bangladesh, and so we sought both technical and human assistance” from the FBI, he said.
The officials also discussed how to proceed with their investigation, he added.
A government investigative committee led by former central bank governor Mohammad Farash Uddin began its probe Sunday. “This is a wake-up call,” he said of the unprecedented breach in the bank’s computer security.
A Senate hearing in the Philippines last week was told that $30 million of the $81 million haul was delivered in cash to an ethnic Chinese casino junket operator in Manila. The rest was transferred to two casinos in the Philippines.
According to his wife, Kamrun Nahar Chowdhury, cybercrime expert Zoha was blindfolded by unknown plainclothes people early Thursday before being taken away in a vehicle.
Chowdhury said that police had refused to investigate her husband’s disappearance and that she had appealed to the government for help. Police were unavailable for comment.
“We don’t know why he was picked up,” she said.