DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh’s central bank chief resigned on Tuesday, 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 A.M.A Muhith told Agence France-Presse, referring to the Bangladesh Bank (BB) governor Atiur Rahman.
“I am ready to resign from my post for the sake of the country,” Rahman told journalists Tuesday morning.
The hacking took place on the night of February 4, a Thursday, using information stolen through the malware, which sent a total of 35 transfer orders to the NY Federal Reserve Bank where the BB has an account. The next two days – Friday and Saturday – were a weekend in Bangladesh.
The powerful malware not only hacked into the system, but also destroyed the system on the computers itself, which are used by the officials to make transfer orders. Data on the printers were also destroyed by the malware.
On Monday, the BB governor faced criticism from government high-ups and a number of ruling party leaders for “incompetent handling” of the cyber theft.
Muhith was furious and hinted that the top management of the BB may see changes as the fallout of the theft.
“We are going to make a major decision,” he told reporters Monday at the secretariat when asked whether the government would take any action against the BB.
Muhith publicly vented his anger on Sunday on the BB for keeping him in the dark for more than a month about the theft and said he would take action against the BB. “I am very unhappy about the handling of the matter by Bangladesh Bank… very incompetent,” he said.
The BB governor has been criticized particularly for keeping the government in the dark about the matter for more than a month.
Questions were raised over Atiur’s decision to travel to New Delhi to attend an event of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at a time when mysteries around the cyber theft were unfolding. The BB governor went to the Indian capital on March 10 to attend a three-day meeting of the IMF.
Atiur was supposed to meet Muhith immediately after his return home. But the meeting didn’t take place as the BB chief was “tired,” said a BB official seeking anonymity.
Shahedur Rahman, senior public relations officer of the finance ministry, told reporters that the finance minister would hold a press conference at 11:00am Tuesday to brief the media about the cyber heist. But the press conference was rescheduled at 2:30pm.
Meanwhile, the government decided to form a four-member committee to investigate the cyber theft that took place on February 4 midnight. Mohammed Farashuddin, a former governor of the central bank, might be made the head of the probe body if he agrees to take the responsibility, said a finance ministry official.
A number of ministers and Awami League leaders also slammed the BB governor, saying he cannot shirk his responsibility.
In a press release Monday, the Transparency International Bangladesh expressed concern that the BB did not immediately inform its board and the government about the cyber theft.
Meanwhile, the Philippines’ Anti-Money Laundering Council said it is preparing charges against a number of people allegedly involved in the illegal transfer of more than $80 million from the BB account with the Federal Reserve Bank.
Furthermore, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Teresita Herbosa called on the Congress to further strengthen the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Act. Herbosa hoped the government would be able to recover the $81 million that had been traced to Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation and three large casinos.