With six Ukrainian nationals in custody, police remain in the dark on the whole chain involved in the scam that withdrew money from Dutch-Bangla Bank’s ATMs
Detectives are now collecting information on all inbound foreign nationals who entered the country in the last fifteen days, in a bid to identify other members of an international fraud ring involved in stealing money from automated teller machines (ATM) of a private bank in the capital recently.
The investigation particularly focuses on finding Ukrainian citizens present in the country, officials told Dhaka Tribune.
With six Ukrainian nationals in custody, police remain in the dark on the whole chain involved in the scam that withdrew money from Dutch-Bangla Bank’s ATMs. The police has no specific leads on how the money was stolen as the heist was the first of its kind in Bangladesh.
“During primary interrogation, the accused individuals did not speak. So we are collecting information about them. We have also verified the domestic link,” Detective Branch Additional Deputy Commissioner Shahidur Rahman Ripon said.
Two foreigners, wearing masks and caps, withdrew money from Dutch-Bangla Bank's ATM booth in Badda on May 31. They withdrew around Tk3 lakh. Similarly, two others were trying to withdraw money from a Taltola booth in the Khilgaon area. In Khilgaon, the security guard caught one person named Denys Vitomskyi and the other, identified as Vitalii Klimchuk, fled the scene.
Later, police raided a hotel in the capital’s Panthapath area and arrested Ukrainian nationals Valentyn Sokolovskyi, Volodymyr Trishchynskyi, Serhii Ukrainets, Oleg Shevchuk, and Nazarii Vozniuk. Later, a case was filed against the accused in this regard.
“The arrested only speak Russian andthe police is arranging interpreters to continue the interrogation. We are getting assistance from experts from Dhaka University, BUET, and Computer Council, to investigate technical issues,” he added.
On Monday, investigators held a meeting with teachers from the computer science department of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, the department of computer science and information technology of Dhaka University, a member of the Bangladesh Computer Association, technical experts of Bangladesh Bank, and experts from Dutch-Bangla Bank, for the investigation.
The official also said they have asked police headquarters to seek the assistance of Interpol to locate the absconding foreign national.
Sources close to the investigation said that although investigators initially found the gang stole Tk3 lakh from two DBBL booths, further investigation revealed that around Tk14 lakh was stolen from nine booths of the bank.
Since no stolen money was recovered from the six arrested Ukrainians, investigators suspect more people are involved in the scam.
On condition of anonymity, an official close to the investigation said Vitalli Klimchuk escaped when the raid was conducted and remains on the run. Investigators have provided detailed information to all ports regarding Klimchuk’s Ukrainian passport (804448).
As the country’s immigration department has no information of Klimchuk leaving the country, investigators believe he went underground with the help of local partners.
Officials said they have collected visuals from the ATM booths and were now trying to figure out how the money was withdrawn from the machines. Contact has also been made with NCR Corporation, the company that supplied the ATM machines.
NCR officials and their concerned technology experts are likely to meet the investigators on June 18 or 19.
Sources said seven Ukrainians came into Bangladesh on tourist visas on May 30. Their plan was to do their ATM heists during the Eid holidays in Dhaka and go to India on June 6.
An official of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) said the criminals were members of “Hidden Cobra,” a North Korean hacker group, and had links to the “Lazarus Group,” the infamous gang involved in the 2016 Bangladesh Bank heist.
They CID warned bank authorities recently after getting a tip-off from an international intelligence agency about such a hacker group, he added.
The CID also filed a case against the seven under the money laundering act on Monday.
Regarding this matter, CID Additional Special Superintendent of Police, Sharmin Jahan, said they were investigating the matter.