Bangladesh-Philippines FOC also discuss cooperation on the Rohingya issue
Bangladesh has asked the Philippines for the $20 million that was imposed as a fine on Filipino bank Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) in connection with the Bangladesh Bank money heist, which took place in February 2016.
Dhaka has also asked Manila to provide the identities of the perpetrators of the heist and details of some financial aspects.
Masud Bin Momen, secretary (Asia and Pacific) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, disclosed the information while speaking to reporters after the second Foreign Office Consultation (FOC) between Bangladesh and the Philippines, which was held at state guesthouse Meghna in Dhaka on Tuesday.
The FOC, which took place four years after the first one, also discussed how the countries can cooperate in areas like the Rohingya crisis, migration, climate change, disaster risk management, and agriculture, the secretary said.
“The Bangladesh Bank officials sat with their Filipino counterparts separately. They have agreed on how to cooperate more with each other,” he further added. “They [the Philippines central bank] have already charged the RCBC a $20 million fine. We have asked them to give us that money; it can be done.”
However, the Filipinos argued that the $20 million fine was imposed on the RCBC because they violated the banking law in their country, meaning there is no direct link between this money and the money that Bangladesh lost in the heist, Masud told reporters.
“But we are pressing our demand saying that they can give us that money because ultimately the fine was imposed in connection with the [Bangladesh Bank] heist,” he added.
“We have also sought some information from them [the Filipino central bank], such as the identities of some of the perpetrators and some finance-related information that they have not yet shared with us,” said Masud, adding that Dhaka has been assured of cooperation in this regard.
But the Philippine authorities will have to take the approval of their country’s Department of Justice before sharing the information with Bangladesh, he added.
Asked about a time frame, the secretary noted that the judicial process is time-consuming, and pointed out that there are lawsuits in this regard in Bangladesh, the US and the Philippines.
If obtained, the information that Dhaka has asked Manila for will facilitate the submission of the charge sheet in the case over the heist filed in Bangladesh, Masud said.
“We all know that the money has been laundered. It will take time to investigate. The matter is being investigated in the Philippines on different levels,” he added.
Dhaka and Manila have agreed to resolve the issue amicably, and discussion regarding the $20 million fine is in progress, he further said.
The secretary laid emphasis on solving the issue so it can be an example for other countries.
On the Rohingya crisis
Masud told reporters that, as a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the Philippines has some compulsion about resolving the Rohingya crisis.
Replying to a question, he said the trilateral process involving Bangladesh, Myanmar, and China is on, and Beijing is working as Dhaka’s “guarantor.”
Masud said Bangladesh is working with the United Nations and the international community so that the issue is taken up by either the UN Security Council or the UN General Assembly.
All the initiatives, including at the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, to ensure accountability and justice are confidence-building measures for the Rohingyas, he observed.
These measures will motivate the Rohingyas to return to their homes in Rakhine state and influence the happenings in Myanmar, he added.
The secretary said though the legal measures would take time, Bangladesh wants the persecuted people to return home through bilateral engagement between the two countries.