DHAKA, BANGLADESH: Bangladesh’s central bank chief resigned today, the finance minister said, after hackers stole $81 million from the nation’s foreign reserves in an audacious cyber-heist that has hugely embarrassed the government.
“He called me yesterday and I’ve asked him to resign. And he has resigned today,” minister AMA Muhith told AFP, referring to the Bangladesh Bank governor Atiur Rahman.
The theft from an account Bangladesh held with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has raised alarm over the security of the country’s foreign exchange reserves of over $27 billion.
The hackers attempted to steal almost $1 billion and were only prevented from taking more than they did because of a basic typing error, the Bangladesh Bank’s deputy governor told AFP last week.
Rahman, an economist, was appointed as the governor of the Bangladesh Bank in 2009 and had been due to retire in August.
His resignation comes after Muhith revealed that he was only informed of the losses around a month after they occurred on February 5.
“Bangladesh Bank had the audacity not to inform me. I am certainly going to take action against it,” the minister told reporters on Sunday.
As details of the scandal emerged last week Rahman, 64, flew to India to attend an International Monetary Fund meeting, leaving the more junior central bank officials scrambling to explain how the hackers managed to take such large sums.
Hackers bombarded the New York bank with dozens of transfer requests, and appeared to be trying to exploit gaps in communication between banks at weekends.
They stole $81 million from the account on February 5, transferring the cash electronically to accounts in the Philippines.
The hackers, who bombarded the New York bank with dozens of transfer requests, had been attempting to steal a further $850 million, but the bank’s security systems and typing errors in some requests prevented the full theft.
Reports said the hackers misspelled the name of a Sri Lankan non-governmental organisation, triggering a check of the request which raised the alarm.
Some of the funds have been recovered and Filipino authorities have frozen the stolen money following court orders, Bangladesh Bank has said. It suspects the hackers were Chinese.
The hack took place on a Friday, when Bangladesh Bank is closed, while the Federal Reserve Bank in New York is closed on Saturday and Sunday.
The US reserve bank, which manages the Bangladesh Bank reserve account, denied its own systems were breached.
Rahman launched a series of populist policies to take bank services to the doorstep of millions of rural poor in Bangladesh.
But his tenure has been marred by a spate of high-profile banking scams in which state-owned banks lost hundreds of millions of dollars in bad loans.
Rahman said the central bank had hired international experts security to prevent a repeat of the incident.