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2 April, 2016 00:00 00 AM

A dirge for the poor

Anikanta Gupta

Now explain who would consider Bangladesh to be a poor third world country in the first place (whose financial budget was depending on Paris consortium not too long ago)? No one would virtually. The country that has $27 billion foreign currency reserve is indeed no more a pariah. So, when you are rich, you can take a nap, or worse sleep, so did Bangladesh Bank or BB, rather mirthfully. And when they woke up, they were in a mess. What has happened, recently, after that hardly we would find a buyer of ‘poor Bangladesh’ tag. Too bad for those NGOs in Bangladesh that basically fed on foreign donations! According to the sources on 4th February midnight, some hackers originated from unknown country (presumably from China—hey China not only produces cheapest wares, but also exports malware too, so beware folks) made an inroad to a seemingly impregnable and vaunted Bangladesh Bank (BB) foreign currency accounts supposedly safely kept in New York’s Federal Reserve Bank and falsely ordered there for a staggering $949 million and you know what, BB was just snoring, simply had no idea what had been going on, until a Sri Lankan bank would alert the authority here and in New York too. Thanks largely to that bank and one of its alert trailer, BB was at last able to rescue at least $20 million from that bank, cancelled 30 fraudulent pay orders, a bullet so nearly missed the target. Yet the swindlers had that much of fortune and went away with $81 million, no less, (the real amount perhaps will never be known!) from a Filipino Bank, RCBC (Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation), alas hard earn money by Bangladeshi poor people. (Hey, Bangladesh is no more the pariah that once it was, ask its finance minister). That particular bank, RCBC, did ignore an alert of a fraudulent transaction knelled by the New York Fed as well as from BB as it has emerged from an ongoing investigation conducted by the Filipino authority.
More than a week later of that massive heist, BB would ask formally to Filipino anti money laundering council (AMLC) to step into, when it finally realized concerned bank had paid no heed to BB’s request. Before that the holders of those ghost accounts had had enough time as well as means to withdraw the sum that had made headway to different casinos, some amount even had been transferred to Hong Kong, Macao and other casino heavens.
In global business scenario, where every second counts, BB must have been cognizant of the fact that they made a brazen delay, one week is tantamount to a year, if not a decade. Thereafter, it made a futile attempt to hide the whole issue under the carpet, by not informing higher authority as well as public under the pretext of not pressing the panic button. It wasn’t until a Filipino news outlet that broadcasted the scandal that the poor gullible citizens of Bangladesh would come to know about that massive hacking. Now whom to blame, except for those unknown hackers? The New York Fed has been reiterating they have done no wrong, neither the swift code bearer Belgium company. Fed has been arguing the payment orders were processed rightly.
The Filipino bank, RCBC, never was under any obligation other than the moral one to stop a disbursement, that was already inside there banking channel and they are liable to serve their customers first as any commercial bank would prioritise. Still they have launched a comprehensive investigation as soon as news broke out to get to the bottom of the matter preventing further occurrence of such malfeasance. A high power committee headed by a senator has been functioning under the full media glare in Philippines that already has nabbed few foul players, starting with the branch manager who allegedly helped the fraudsters to get away with money.
It might be that culprits are well known by the RCBC. And what we are having here in Bangladesh is a “lipstick work” (ohh after 40 days, BB thought, it should file a case!) and we are so lucky to have one more “banker of poor” in our country who is also a “much published” son of a farmer at top of our banking system. Such a large amount has been siphoned off he being at the helm, still he had the guile to portray himself to be “the hero” (who needed this hero by the way!) and was said to be happy that he was able to demit the office holding his head high!
And that drama could only unfold in Bangladesh where top honchos take chances of public muteness every now and then, be it Hallmark scandal, be it share market embezzlement, be it Basic Bank theft. Still, we appreciate our Governor who invoked upon moral responsibility, self dignity, etc. before quitting, our finance minister (FM) had none of these to follow suit, was still searching a way out to hang on. Whatever the outcome of these “whoosh hash" investigation committee organized by government (that might see the same fate as many other did before) no one but the poor Bangladeshis will be the ultimate loser.
Expats work hard and deposit their money, a government can’t safeguard it finally, and a FM comes before media and brushes off everything dubbing as fiction, hardly shows any remorse for the bad job he has been doing. At present, citizens could hope that, guilty to be punished exemplary soon, so that there won’t any such recurrence in future, and last but not least, if possible some amount (whatever possible to mutter) to recuperate by government. We heard that foreign exchange company Philrem (that was also complicit in the scandal), has offered Bangladesh P10 million as token of apology.
Bangladesh government should wield as much as power possible through media and other channels to extricate more such amount. Anyway that is indeed a welcome piece of news in that current grim scenario.

The writer is a contributor toThe Independent


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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