Taarifa Rwanda

Equity Bank Robbed Over Rwf70m In Sophisticated Transaction

Equity Bank is facing a complicated situation, which requires a third party to help interpret whether it is fraud or an internal operational error.

On January 15, a woman opened a dollar account at Rubavu branch and deposited US$100.

Later, the same woman turned up to withdraw approximately US$80,000 after an authorised transfer request of the same amount by another client,” Hannington Namara Equity Bank Rwanda Managing Director exclusively told Taarifa.

However, the bank staff received a phone call later from the owner of the account from which this US$80,000 was transferred asking why and who and where his money had been taken. He came to the bank to demand for an answer.

However, the bank staff told this client that he had himself authorised the money transfer to the alleged account using his phone number.

This man asked the bank staff to cross check authenticity of phone number that was used to call the bank to order for the transfer.

Checking in the system, the bank staff found that the number used to call the bank authorizing the transfer didn’t correspond to his.

Most Equity Bank clients have their accounts synchronized with their emails and phone numbers- they receive a notification email or SMS on phone whenever any transaction is conducted.

Equity bank branch is wondering how the “operational fraud, as Namara described it, occurred.

Equity Bank conducted an internal investigation, but the investigation did not bear results. This prompted Equity Bank’s management to call in the police to investigate the case.

So far, four employees of Rubavu branch have been arrested pending detailed investigation to ascertain whether there could have been any connivance in effecting this transaction. They include; two cashiers and an accountant and operational branch manager.

“This is a fraudulent act, not a cybercrime and it is normal for a client to withdraw such a sum of money in that area,” Namara said. Rubavu District boarders with the Democratic Republic of Congo. A lot of Congolese businessmen keep their money in Rwandan bank, but also conduct businesses at the boarder and nearest banks are those on the Rwandan side. “So, this is not an outlier case, ir just happens to be an unfortunate occurrence,” he added.

He added that they couldn’t suggest that the person who withdrew the money is the fraudster or there was an inside job involved, until the investigators conclude their job.

Financial fraud is one of the most complicated crime to investigate, according to Police reports.

The Governor of the Central Bank, John Rwangombwa, recently announced that there has been an average of 8,000,000 financial cyber-attacks per year in Rwanda.

Using stolen IDs to register SIM cards is one of the methods cybercriminals use to attack victims as they use the numbers registered on those SIM cards to lie to victims in order to steal from them according to ACP Peter Karake, the Commissioner of IT and Cyber Crime Investigation in Rwanda National Police.

However, what happened in Rubavu Equity Bank Branch is not a cybercrime, as narrated by Namara. “It is an operational fraud.”

Meanwhile, ACP Karake also said that, “Crimes happen when a staff from a certain banks shares secret pins or passwords to hackers.”

In 2016, Rwanda recorded 74 cybercrime cases involving Rwf1.3 billion and €340,000. In 2017, the number increased to 80 cases, doubling the funds to Rwf2.6 12,101,816 and $605,028.

Although 95% of the money involved in attacks aimed at Rwandan financial institutions was returned in 2016 and 2017, bank robberies have been happening in Rwanda and sometimes saw bank staff lose their lives.

On May 26, 2017, armed robbers broke into Agaseke Bank’s Rubavu Branch, leaving with over Rwf53 million, after which two guards were arrested for alleged involvement in the robbery.

Three armed men in military uniform, on October 24, 2017, killed one cashier leaving three employees wounded in an attempted robbery at the Bank of Kigali’s Buhanda Branch in Ruhango District.

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