Six directors of a dubious foundation in Sri Lanka, accused of receiving $20 million stolen from Bangladesh Banks reserves in US, have been barred from leaving the country. Colombo Chief Magistrate Gihan Pilaptiya gave the order last Monday following the investigation of a complaint filed by the Financial Intelligence Unit of Sri Lanka’s central Bank.
Shalika Foundation’s account with Pan Asia Bank at Colombo received $19,999,977.50 through SWIFT messages six days after it was opened on Jan 26, police told court. But the bank held up the transfer and contacted Bangladesh Bank after the hackers misspelled the word ‘foundation’. Four other requests by hackers to transfer about $81 million to the Philippines went through.
The Shalika Foundation directors barred from leaving Sri Lanka are Gamage Shalika Perera, Don Prasad Rohitha, Nishantha Nalaka Walakuluarachchi, Sanjeewa Tissa Bandara and Shirani Dhammika Fernando. Police said the foundation has no other contact information except an address in Colombo, which turned out to be a closed-up house. The NGO had been set up ostensibly to help low income families, investigators say.
Hackers stole $101 million from the account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in early February. The amount despatched to Sri Lanka has been recovered, Bangladesh Bank officials said. The remaining $81 million that ended up in five accounts at Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) in the Philippines is said to have been subsequently laundered in a casino and dispatched to Hong Kong.
The bank’s manager Maia Santos-Deguito and four others were summoned by the Philippines’ Department of Justice (DOJ) for a preliminary investigation after the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Council filed a complaint. Deguito is accused of allowing the withdrawals despite receiving a request from Bangladesh to halt the transactions.
The massive heist led to the resignation of central bank governor Atiur Rahman and the sacking of his two deputies. FBI officials in Dhaka have met Bangladesh’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to assist with the investigation.