RCBC sues Bangladesh Bank at Makati RTC for defamation

By Lee C. Chipongian

The Yuchengco-controlled Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) said it has filed a lawsuit against Bangladesh Bank for defamation relating to the 2016 cyber heist that cost the Bangladesh central bank $81 million.

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In a statement, RCBC said it has filed the complaint with the Regional Trial Court in Makati City last March 6.

RCBC said the foreign central bank has been “defaming (the bank)and its executives with baseless allegations of complicity in the $81 million cyber heist of Bangladesh’s central bank in 2016.”

RCBC has threatened for years that it will slap a lawsuit against Bangladesh Bank after its reputation “has come under the vicious and public attack by Bangladesh Bank since 2016,” it said in its complaint. “It is public knowledge that Bangladesh Bank has embarked on a massive ploy and scheme to extort money from plaintiff RCBC by resorting to public defamation, harassment and threats geared towards destroying RCBC’s good name, reputation, and image, all with the intention of getting RCBC to pay Bangladesh Bank money that RCBC does not have in its custody or possession and which it does not owe to Bangladesh Bank.”

Bangladesh Bank deputy governor Abu Hena Mohammad Razee Hasan, also head of its Financial Intelligence Unit, was served with the legal complaint from RCBC, along with the other members of Bangladesh Bank.

Bangladesh Bank has already sued RCBC in February in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Tai-Heng Cheng, RCBC’s lead lawyer and a partner at the New York office of law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP said the “claims are baseless and have harmed RCBC’s reputation as one of the best banks in the Philippines. Bangladesh’s suit is nothing more than a political stunt to try to shift blame from themselves to RCBC. The action taken today by RCBC finally puts the case in a court where – at the very least – the alleged crime took place.”

RCBC’s defamation suit “references Bangladesh Bank’s failures to secure its network and disclose those failings on a timely basis,” said RCBC.
The complaint also refuted Bangladesh Bank’s allegation that RCBC played a premeditated role in the cyber theft.

“Bangladesh Bank had lost the $81 million the minute it left (its) account at the New York Fed (Federal Bank) and way before it had even reached the Philippines... there is absolutely no act attributable to RCBC that caused the payment instructions to reach the Fed and the Correspondent Banks,” according to the complaint.

Thea Daep, from RCBC’s Manila law firm Villaraza & Angangco said: “RCBC had nothing to do with the theft of the funds and has cooperated fully with every investigation into the matter. We will prove in the Philippine court that Bangladesh’s defamation is nothing more than a blatant attempt to shift the blame and cover up their own liability at RCBC’s expense.”

RCBC has been slapped a P1 billion penalty by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for the money-laundering scandal, it was the biggest fine ever issued by the BSP.

RCBC’s president and CEO, Lorenzo Tan, resigned from the bank during the height of the cyber heist issue, even after RCBC has cleared him of involvement.