DHAKA: 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.
The cash, stolen on February 5, was transferred electronically to accounts in the Philippines.
Some of the funds have been recovered and Filipino authorities have frozen the stolen money on court orders, Bangladesh Bank has said.
It suspects the hackers were Chinese.
“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 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 said 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.
Before his resignation, an emotional Rahman said he was alarmed by the hack but did not comment on why he took so long to report the missing money.
“This event was almost like a militant attack, almost like an earthquake. I did not realize how it happened, from where it originated and who had done it,” he added, choking back tears.
“When I was informed, I was so puzzled. Fearing that it might destroy our economy, I quickly took opinion of the experts. I brought them to the country from abroad and ensured security so that it did not occur again.”
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.
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 said the central bank had hired international experts security to prevent a repeat of the incident.