MANILA (Reuters) - A Philippine regional trial court has ordered the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to return to the Bangladesh central bank a recovered portion of the $81 million that was stolen from the bank earlier this year, a government lawyer said on Monday.
The court has declared Bangladesh as the rightful owner of the funds, totaling $15 million, Ricardo Paras III, chief state counsel of the Philippines' Department of Justice, said while reading a copy of the court's ruling to a Reuters reporter.
Unknown hackers tried to steal nearly $1 billion from the Bangladesh central bank's account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in early February, and succeeded in transferring $81 million to four accounts at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp in Manila.
During a Philippine Senate hearing into the heist which ended in May, a casino junket operator claimed to have received $35 million of the stolen funds but only returned $15 million. It is not clear what happened to the remainder of the money.
Bangladesh had to file a petition staking its claim to the money before it could be turned over to them.
"(The) court ordered the release of the cash now in the BSP vault in favor of the People's Republic of Bangladesh," Paras told Reuters.
Bangladesh is also seeking to recover another $2.7 million frozen by the Philippines' casino regulator.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Writing by Karen Lema; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)