Bangladesh central bank governor Atiur Rahman has submitted his resignation as tensions escalate with the finance minister after hackers stole about US$101 million from the nation's foreign reserves.
Rahman submitted his resignation on Tuesday to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, according to A.F.M. Asaduzzaman, a spokesman at Bangladesh Bank. He wouldn't say if Hasina had accepted the offer. Ehsanul Karim, her press secretary, didn't answer multiple calls to his mobile phone.
The move comes two days after Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith called Bangladesh Bank's handling of the cyber theft "very incompetent." "If it's my fault, they can take action against me, against Bangladesh Bank," Rahman told Bloomberg on Tuesday before meeting with the Prime Minister. "But they cannot insult me in public." The cyber heist has rattled authorities from Bangladesh to Sri Lanka to the Philippines, where much of the stolen money ended up. The central bank said it recovered $20 million of the stolen funds, and $81 million is outstanding. Rahman was due to retire in August, when he turns 65, after helming the Central Bank for seven years.
'Puzzled' by hack
Rahman told reporters earlier on Tuesday that he had written a letter of resignation and would decide his next course of action after meeting the Prime Minister.
"I will do anything and everything possible for the country," Rahman said in Dhaka, the capital. "I will be waiting for a directive from the prime minister. I want to leave with dignity." Rahman said he wasn't a 'technical guy' and was 'puzzled' by the theft. Attempts by hackers to withdraw another $850 million were foiled in part because they misspelled the name of one of the recipients.
Bangladesh could've done more to monitor its accounts and detect suspicious activity faster, according to security experts including Andrey Dulkin of Jerusalem-based CyberArk. The country should be 'very concerned' about the risk of copy-cat attacks, said Victor Keong, a partner at consultant Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd. in Singapore.
"It is quite shocking," Keong said. "If a Central Bank can have such lapses – and it is the regulator – then those it regulates might not be so well protected." The Philippine Anti-Money Laundering Council filed a complaint against Maia Santos Deguito, the branch manager of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., for aiding the withdrawal of $80.9 million stolen by hackers. The council said she allowed the withdrawals even after Bangladesh requested a halt to the transfers.
Deguito's lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, declined to comment, saying he hasn't seen a copy of the complaint. Dequito denied any wrongdoing during an interview with DZMM radio on 11 March. She is testifying before the Senate on Tuesday. Born to a poor family, Rahman had briefly quit school due to a lack of money before graduating from Dhaka University. He wrote a doctoral thesis titled 'Peasants and Classes' at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He was named Central Bank Governor of the Year for Asia 2015 by the Emerging Markets newspaper, following India's Raghuram Rajan and China's Zhou Xiaochuan.
"We have embarked on an era of new central banking which has got a distinct developmental focus," Rahman told Bloomberg News last year. "That focus is inclusivity and environmental sustainability, which was never reflected in any monetary policy anywhere in the world."