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Friday, October 22, 2021

Three years after cyber fraud on Mauritius bank, Mumbai Police file closure report

The Banking Unit of Mumbai Police's Economic Offences Wing (EOW), which was probing the case, filed an 'A' summary report in the Esplanade court on October 5.

Written by Vallabh Ozarkar | Mumbai |
Updated: October 13, 2021 7:00:10 am
While filing the report in the court, the police said that during the investigation it was found that the crime had taken place, but the whereabouts or identity of the hacker who hacked into the accounts of the bank could not be found. (Representational)

Unable to crack the case even after three years, Mumbai Police has filed an A-Summary closure report in the alleged cyber attack case on the State Bank of Mauritius (SBM), Mumbai branch, in 2018, in which unknown person hacked into the bank’s system and attempted to siphon off Rs 147 crore.

The Banking Unit of Mumbai Police’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW), which was probing the case, filed an ‘A’ summary report in the Esplanade court on October 5. An ‘A’ summary report is filed when the crime took place but remains unsolved with no clues or leads about the culprits.

While filing the report in the court, the police said that during the investigation it was found that the crime had taken place, but the whereabouts or identity of the hacker who hacked into the accounts of the bank could not be found.

On October 5, 2018, officials of SBM lodged a complaint with Mumbai Police claiming that they had become a victim of the cyber attack, wherein Rs 147 crore was siphoned off by unknown persons from SBM’s SWIFT payment system. Mumbai Police had then transferred the case to the Banking Unit of the EOW and the probe was started.

SWIFT, or Society for Worldwide Interbank Telecommunications facility, is a network that enables financial institutions to send and receive information about financial transactions.

According to the police, during the investigation, it was found that the unknown hacker had allegedly obtained the digital ID and password of a bank official and after accessing the computer system of the bank, hacked SBM’s SWIFT payment system. Later, the hacker transferred Rs 147 crore from SBM’s four different nostro accounts to various bank accounts internationally.

Nostro account refers to an account that a bank has in a foreign currency in other banks.

One of the four remitting offshore banks in which the bank had a nostro account became suspicious and alerted SBM, which then asked to stop the transactions. After registering an FIR with the police, the SBM had stated that they have managed to retrieve most of the siphoned amount and the lost money stands at Rs 19 crore only and that their customers’ money is safe.

In the report in the court, the police, however, did not specify the exact amount lost.

The police have said in the A summary closure report that, “during the probe, statements of the bank officials, staffers, bank’s officials working in the IT department and other witnesses were recorded. However, during the investigation no information was found about unknown hacker who had transferred the money.”

“In overall investigation carried out till date and during the examination of witnesses and the investigation carried out with technical help has revealed that crime has taken place. However, the hacker who transferred the money after hacking into the bank’s system has not been found and there is no useful lead about it,” the police stated in the report.

“It has been a long time since the crime has taken place and after the crime the hacker has intentionally hidden his identity and there is no possibility of the accused being found in the near future,” it further said.

An official said that they have filed the ‘A’ summary in the court for now, which is a “temporary closure”, and in the future, if the accused is found, then the case can be reopened and probe can be resumed.

Another officer said, “The hackers are from abroad and all the transactions had taken place out of the country. We have to communicate with the agencies and banks abroad and it becomes a lengthy procedure and the probe gets delayed.”

The court is yet to accept the summary and the next date of the hearing is on January 5, 2022.

The hacking on SBM was one of the biggest cyber attacks on banks in the country. Pune-based Cosmos Bank was also hacked in a similar manner in August 2018.

SBM did not respond to a mail seeking comments.

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