Rizal Commercial Banking Corp (RCBC) in the Philippines made the news earlier this year for its role in the $81 million heist from Bangladesh’s central bank. The funds were hacked from the central bank’s account at the Federal Reserve in New York before being transferred to RCBC. Most of the money then disappeared after being routed through two casinos in the Philippines.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), which is the central bank of the Philippines recently announced that it has imposed a penalty of $21.3 million, which is the equivalent of 1 billion pesos on RCBC. This is the biggest fine that the central bank has imposed in the country’s history and further indicated that the BSP was strongly committed to maintaining the robustness of the Philippines financial system and would continue to tighten its regulations to ensure that there is no provision for money laundering activities.
RCBC which reported a profit of 2.61 billion pesos for the first half of this year has promised to pay the fine within the next 12 months. The bank plans to make two 500 million pesos payments and is in the process of making provisions to get the funds in place. RCBC has also confirmed that it has strengthened its process and procedures against money laundering.
In a statement, Rens Cruz, analyst at Regina Capital Development Corp said “It sends a strong signal to the public that the central bank means business, that there is an established system of checks and balances and that things won’t go unpunished. Rizal Bank can absorb the fine and will recover from its impact in two years. The stock will probably be volatile for a day or two but investors will soon realize that this is a good thing that sets a clearer direction for the bank.”
Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines had promised to help Bangladesh recover the funds and a number of key officials from the Philippines met with Bangladesh Ambassador John Gomes on August 5 to see how best the funds could be recovered. Gomes stated that Bangladesh wasn’t a very wealthy country and $81 million was a lot of funds. A high level delegation from Bangladesh is expected to arrive in September to meet with officials from the Philippines which might also include the central bank governor and the finance minister.
Bangladesh holds RCBC accountable for the theft and is confident that it will recover the $81 million that was stolen. Gomes stated that he expected at least $15 million to be transferred before the end of September and an additional $2.5 million that was frozen by the gaming regulator in the Philippines to also be released shortly.