Sri Lankan bank teller stops international hackers

Singapore, Mar 16, 2016 (LBO) – A Sri Lankan bank teller has stopped international hackers from laundering 20 million dollars stolen from the New York Federal Reserve, Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran told an audience in Singapore on Tuesday.

This is testament to the best practices followed by the island’s bankers, he said explaining the positives in the island at the Sri Lanka Investment Summit.

“You may have noticed, we helped our friends in the Bangladesh Bank. They had a little bit of money being taken out of their kitty,” said Mahendran.

“It was a very alert young Sri Lankan teller who discovered that whole issue, which I think is testament to the due diligence of our banking.”

A spelling mistake in the bank transfer instruction noticed by the teller led to the discovery, after hackers tried to transfer almost a billion dollars from the Bangladesh’s account at the New York Federal Reserve.

Although 20 million dollars was recovered, hackers still managed to get away with about 80 million dollars — one of the largest bank thefts in history.

Four requests to transfer a total of 81 million dollars to the Philippines went through, but a fifth, for 20 million, to a Sri Lankan non-profit organization was held up because the hackers misspelled the name of the NGO, Shalika Foundation, Reuters reported.

Hackers wrote “fandation,” which led to routing bank Deutsche Bank seeking clarification from the Bangladesh central bank, stopping the transaction.

There is no NGO under the name of Shalika Foundation in Sri Lanka. The transaction initially reached Pan Asia Banking Corp, which went back to Deutsche Bank for more verification because of the unusually large size of the payment, a Pan Asia official said.

Bangladesh’s central bank governor resigned on Tuesday over the theft as details emerged in the Philippines that 30 million dollars of the money was delivered to a casino junket operator in Manila.

The rest of the money went to two casinos. Bangladesh Bank officials have said recovering the money could take months.

(Chamath Ariyadasa reporting for LBO from Singapore)