It's finally happening  

Mahmudur Rahman   | Published: January 28, 2019 22:15:45 | Updated: January 29, 2019 22:09:53


The curious silence over inaction in pursuing the Bangladesh Bank reserve heist has thankfully been broken with Finance Minister A H M Kamal announcing that local and foreign lawyers have been employed to file a case in the United States. The intent is suggestive that whatever wrong was done was initiated from abroad. A banker in the Philippines has been jailed and fined though one could argue the fine should have been payable to Bangladesh. While the Bangladesh Bank's own investigation report has never been made public it is suggestive of significant local complicity borne out by suspensions and international travel restrictions on individuals.

And it is based on the simple theory that passwords were compromised either wilfully or through stealth. Voices that could throw light on the misdemeanour were strangely muzzled soon after the incident and media attention appears to have fizzled out on grounds that the money can never be recovered. That may be the case but the target is to prevent such occurrences from being repeated and making up as much of the losses as possible with action against the responsible parties.

There is an apprehension that the trail may have gone cold. Indeed that was the assertion from the Philippines quite early on. Nonetheless, for such huge amounts to go missing without a trace is unacceptable as the existing banking channels were almost certainly used in the heist. Initial fingers were pointed at the Indian IT firm entrusted with the security protocol but an absence of a case locally meant those under suspicion were never grilled even though they were placed under suspension.

What the case could additionally reveal is how thousands of millions in default loans apparently vanished into thin air. After the Finance Minister's deadline on listing bad loans and recovery plans, one banker went public in saying many businesses went under or loanees passed away. Loans are made to organisations and not individuals, that too against collateral of some kind. If that was not appropriate the burden of guilt falls on the sanctioning bank for not having followed due diligence. The Association of Bankers have decried so much fuss over Tk 225 billion having gone astray out of a trillion in loans. Having said so even collateral damage has its limitations.

In the Bangladesh Bank heist, individuals and companies must be taken to account for sheer negligence and the government has to come clean on the losses concerned. Without action against perpetrators and associates it grants impunity and strengthens the probability of repeat offences. True the entire security protocol has been changed but let us not forget these two were man-made and therefore, susceptible to hacking.

mahmudrahman@gmail.com

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