Bank Negara, ABM must come clean by naming all 5 culprit local banks in MACC’s scam bust

IN the name of corporate liability, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and the Association of Banks in Malaysia (ABM) must leave no stone unturned by naming-to-shame the five culprit major local banks allegedly used by international scammers to dupe victims with transaction valued up to RM1 mil daily after being conned.

If the market regulator as in the central bank is unprepared to expose the identity of the five banks, perhaps the Finance Minister who is also the country’s Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim would not mind doing such honour vis-à-vis pressurising ABM which is the umbrella body which represents the 26 commercial banks operating in Malaysia.

Such public shaming will ensure that all local and foreign banks buck up their entire operations while making sure that their security system is fool-proof enough to prevent fraudulent online withdrawals or human errors that can compromise on their customer protection aspect.

Needless to say, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) deserved praises for having busted an international scamming syndicate in its operation code-named Ops Tropicana.

However, the very shocker that at least 20 employees of the five banks – including auditors and frontline officers – had facilitated syndicate members to open their accounts without any hassle leaves behind very bad taste insofar as customer protection is concerned.

As per revelation by the New Straits Times, these accounts were then used by the scammers to collect cash deposited by victims who had been fleeced. The bank officers were also reported to have kept a blind eye on suspicious transaction reports flagged to the bank accounts.

It is learnt the crooked bank employees had led to scammers reaping about RM200 mil in a span of just three months. In return, the bankers pocketed between RM1,000 to RM2,000 for each bank account that was successfully opened without any due diligence.

More broadly, it is no joke that many Malaysians have fallen victims to online scams involving hundreds of millions in losses in recent times.

The latest statistics showed that there were a total of 12,092 online fraud cases with losses amounting to RM414.8 mil reported from January to July 2022, according to Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani.

A total of 33,147 suspects in cyber fraud cases had been arrested with 22,196 cases charged in court from 2019 to July 2022 itself.

That staff of the five banks have been complicit in helping foreign scammers move their ill-gotten loot is most disgusting. The victims in this seedy saga may be foreigners but devastating nonetheless. Many questions need to be answered, principally on governance, trust and oversight.

Before anyone says the staff involved were just ‘bad apples’, it’s appropriate for the banks involved to own up, reassure customers and the authorities that their internal checks and balance processes are in tip-top condition, and that their oversight are in place and tightened where needed.

Most of all, the regulator has to step up gear to make sure criminals don’t abuse porous areas of the Malaysian banking system at will. – March 16, 2023

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