Probe into Standard Bank R300m fraud at ‘advanced’ stage

Johannesburg - Standard Bank [JSE:SBK] says an investigation into a R300m ATM fraud hit in Japan is at an “advanced and sensitive” stage.

On May 15, about 100 people reportedly used forged Standard Bank credit cards to withdraw ¥1.8bn (over R250m) from 1 400 ATMs in Tokyo and other areas in Japan.

Standard Bank later confirmed the incident and estimated that it lost about R300m in the crime.

But a report this week in the Japan News has further linked the crime to the alleged hacking of a computer system belonging Standard Bank South Africa.

Japan News reported that an analysis of the computer system revealed that a program in the system was operated with no authorisation early in the morning on May 15, shortly before the withdrawals were made.

Standard Bank, in responding to the report, said the investigation into the crime is still ongoing.

“The current investigation has reached an advanced and sensitive stage,” Standard Bank spokesperson Ross Linstrom told Fin24 in an email.

“Standard Bank is cooperating and assisting authorities both locally and abroad.

“Due to the sensitivity of the investigation and the multi-jurisdictional nature of the enquiry it would be inappropriate for Standard Bank to comment on speculation regarding this matter,” add Linstrom.

The bank further reiterated that no customer losses occurred as a result of the ATM fraud in Japan.

“Immediate action taken by Standard Bank contained any further losses, and as communicated in May, the gross loss to Standard Bank is still estimated at R300m,” said Linstrom.

Complex, organised crime

South African officials also reportedly flew over to Japan in the middle of June while 10 people have been arrested, according to Japan News.

Meanwhile, the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) has indicated that it is not investigating this matter itself but that it is "supporting" both Standard Bank and law enforcement with their investigation.

Sabric couldn't disclose the kind of support it has been offering Standard Bank and law enforcement agencies. 

"We don't do investigations as part of Sabric's work. We support the banks, we support law enforcement on behalf of the banks in terms of any investigation, and we obviously have certain roles to play in terms of coordinating - that's Sabric's role in this," Sabric CEO Kalyani Pillay told Fin24 by phone.

"It is ongoing; the investigation has not been completed - we can't make any statement or comment around this," Pillay added.

Pillay further said that law enforcement agencies in both countries are working together. She further said that the crime is clearly "highly organised and sophisticated" with syndicates involved and that the investigation is complex.

"This incident was the first of its kind that we've ever seen in this country," said Pillay.

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