Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., the tenth-largest lender in terms of assets, said it filed a lawsuit against the Bank of Bangladesh in a local civil court for allegedly defaming the bank and its executives.
RCBC sued Bank of Bangladesh for baseless allegations of complicity in the $81-million cyber heist in 2016.
RCBC said in a statement it filed the complaint on March 6 with the Makati City Regional Trial Court.
The Philippine bank said its reputation had come “under the vicious and public attack by Bangladesh Bank since 2016”.
“It is public knowledge that Bangladesh Bank has embarked on a massive ploy and scheme to extort money from plaintiff RCBC by resorting to public defamation, harassment and threats geared towards destroying RCBC’s good name, reputation and image, all with the intention of getting RCBC to pay Bangladesh Bank money that RCBC does not have in its custody or possession and which it does not owe to Bangladesh Bank,” it said.
The suit was served to Abu Hena Mohammad Razee Hasan, deputy governor and head of Bangladesh Bank Financial Intelligence Unit and the other members of Bangladesh Bank delegation that arrived in the Philippines for meetings with banking officials.
Bangladesh Bank sued RCBC in January in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Tai-Heng Cheng, RCBC’s lead lawyer and a partner at the New York office of law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan Llp said that Bank of Bangladesh’s claims were “baseless and have harmed RCBC’s reputation as one of the best banks in the Philippines.”
“Bangladesh’s suit is nothing more than a political stunt to try to shift blame from themselves to RCBC. The action taken today by RCBC finally puts the case in a court where―at the very least―the alleged crime took place,” Cheng said.
Cyber thieves stole $81 million from the account of Bank of Bangladesh in Federal Reserve in New York in February 2016. The dirty money entered the domestic financial system through fictitious accounts in RCBC Jupiter branch in Makati City and later on was laundered by a number of individuals in local casinos.
RCBC’s defamation suit referenced Bangladesh’s failure to secure its network and disclose those failings on a timely basis. The complaint also refuted Bangladesh Bank’s allegation that RCBC played a premeditated role in the cyber theft.
“Bangladesh Bank had lost the $81 million the minute it left defendant Bangladesh Bank’s account at the NY Fed and way before it had even reached the Philippines…. There is absolutely no act attributable to RCBC that caused the payment instructions to reach the NY Fed and the correspondent banks,” the complaint said.
Thea Daep, a partner at the Manila law firm of Villaraza & Angangco, said RCBC had nothing to do with the theft of the funds and had cooperated fully with every investigation into the matter.
“We will prove in the Philippine court that Bangladesh’s defamation is nothing more than a blatant attempt to shift the blame and cover up their own liability at RCBC’s expense,” Daep said.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas earlier fined RCBC P1 billion for its involvement in the incident, a substantial amount which the bank paid in two tranches.