Sri Lanka arrests two over hacking of Taiwan bank accounts

Handcuffs - Arrest by Police

Two people have been arrested in Sri Lanka for suspected money laundering from a Taiwanese bank whose computer system was hacked to enable illicit transactions abroad, police said on Monday.

Police acted after state-owned Bank of Ceylon reported a suspicious transfer into one of its accounts of $1.2 million from Taiwan Far Eastern Bank, following by a withdrawal of some of the money by one of the suspects.

“We arrested on a tip-off from the Bank of Ceylon that there had been a suspicious transaction,” Shani Abeywardana, director at the police criminal investigations division (CID), told Reuters.

“From the investigations and questioning we’ve found out that this is connected to hacking in Taiwan,” Abeywardana said.

Officials from Taiwan Far Eastern Bank were not immediately available for comment.

Focus Taiwan, the English-language news website of Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA), said on Saturday Far Eastern Bank had reported to Taiwan’s financial watchdog that its computer system had been infected with malware.

“Through the planted malware, hackers conducted virtual transactions to move funds totaling nearly $60 million from Far Eastern Bank customers’ accounts to some foreign destinations such as Sri Lanka, Cambodia and the United States, the bank found on Tuesday,” Focus Taiwan’s website said.

A spelling mistake in an online bank transfer instruction discovered by a Sri Lankan bank helped prevent a nearly $1 billion heist early last year involving the Bangladesh central bank and the New York Federal Reserve.