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International Investigators Grapple With Real-Life 'Oceans Eleven'


International investigators are grappling with a real-life "Ocean's 11." This plot involves criminals who hacked into the Central Bank of Bangladesh. As NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports, they siphoned out $100 million, and it could have been far worse.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: It all started on a Friday last month. Dozens of orders to move money from Bangladesh Bank's accounts at the New York Federal Reserve started to come in. Initially, they looked like routine transactions. But the money was funneled into private accounts in the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

Most of the funds were then withdrawn at banks without surveillance cameras or were converted into chips at casinos that are not subject to money laundering laws.

JACOB KIRKEGAARD: Well, it's pretty remarkable, isn't it?

NOGUCHI: Rarely does following international banking get so exciting for Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow with the Peterson Institute for International Economics. This scheme seemed to involve highly sophisticated local and international know-how about banking customs and regulations.

KIRKEGAARD: You really got to worry about what is the cybersecurity situation on many of the sort of public and private banks.

NOGUCHI: The investigation has yet to turn up suspects or the missing funds. The New York Fed says it followed proper protocols. The incident stayed under wraps for weeks, but this week, the governor of Bangladesh Bank, Atiur Rahman, resigned. He told Reuters...


ATIUR RAHMAN: All central banks and the banks should be very careful about the cyber attack. This is as bad as, you know, terrorist attack.

NOGUCHI: In another movie-like twist, a typo reportedly raised concerns about the fraudulent orders. Otherwise, the criminals may have succeeded in withdrawing a billion dollars. Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Yuki Noguchi is a correspondent on the Science Desk based out of NPR's headquarters in Washington, D.C. She started covering consumer health in the midst of the pandemic, reporting on everything from vaccination and racial inequities in access to health, to cancer care, obesity and mental health.
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