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US may accuse N Korea in Bangladesh Bank heist

Published : Friday, 24 March, 2017 at 8:42 PM  Count : 92
Business Correspondent

US prosecutors are building potential cases that would accuse North Korea of directing the theft of $81 million from Bangladesh Bank's account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York last year.
The cases will also charge some alleged Chinese middlemen for the cyber heist that rocked the financial world early last year, said a report published in the New York - based Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.
Meanwhile an official of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) told news agency Reuters FBI believes that North Korea is responsible for the heist.
Richard Ledgett, Deputy Director of the US National Security Agency, publicly suggested on Tuesday that North Korea may be linked to the incident, while private firms have long pointed the finger at the reclusive state.
The Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, reported that prosecutors believe Chinese middlemen helped North Korea orchestrate the theft from Bangladesh's central bank, which was among the biggest bank robberies in modern times.
The current cases being pursued may not include charges against North Korean officials, but would likely implicate the country, the newspaper reported, with the United States accusing a foreign government of orchestrating the heist.
A US Department of Justice spokesman declined to comment, when Reuters reached him. FBI offices in Los Angeles and New York have been leading an international investigation into the February 2016 incident, in which hackers breached Bangladesh Bank's systems and used the SWIFT messaging network to request nearly $1 billion from its account at the New York Fed.
The branch of the US central bank rejected most of the requests but filled some of them, resulting in $81 million disappearing into casinos and other entities in the Philippines. A top police investigator in Dhaka told Reuters in December that some Bangladesh Bank officials deliberately exposed its computer systems, enabling the hackers to get in.
The incident exposed bungling and miscommunication between central banks, and left the Fed, Bangladesh, SWIFT, and the Philippine lender that initially received the funds trading blame for months.
SWIFT - or the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication that serves as the backbone of global finance - has since revealed that its messaging system has been targeted in a "meaningful" number of other attacks last year using a similar approach as in the Bangladesh incident.
Last week, SWIFT said it planned to cut off the remaining North Korean banks still connected to its system as concerns about the country's nuclear program and missile tests grow.    Reuters

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