The head of the state-owned Litro gas company, Shalila Moonesinghe, is among two people arrested in connection with millions of rupees wired to a state bank, believed to be from a computer hacking and robbery of a Taiwan bank, officials said Monday.
Moonesinghe, who is also the leader of the New Democratic Front under whose nomination Maithripala Sirisena won the January 2015 Presidential election, is being held by the police Criminal Investigation Department.
Officials said Moonesinghe and another identified as J. C. Nammuni were in custody after they attempted to withdraw millions of rupees that had been wired to their local bank accounts from the hacked Taiwan bank.
Police officials said about $1.3 million had been wired to at least three back accounts maintained at state-bank branches in Colombo.
Police have not disclosed the third person involved, but he is believed to be a businessman with international links, closely associated with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as well as key figures in the current administration.
Police said over the weekend that they were helping Taiwan authorities track down the international criminals who hacked into computers at a Taiwan bank and stole millions of dollars last week.
“We are looking at some $1.3 million that had come into three accounts in Sri Lanka,” a police official involved with the investigation said yesterday.
“We have taken two people into custody and we are looking for one more person.”
Police in Sri Lanka did not disclose the name of the affected bank in Taiwan or the sum said to have been stolen, but media reports in both countries had said it was about $60 million.
In Taipei the Financial Regulatory Commission confirmed that the local Far Eastern International Bank’s SWIFT system had been hacked through a computer virus but gave no details.
Taiwanese media quoted the bank as saying that it detected irregularities in its SWIFT system and there were suspicious transactions starting Thursday to Sri Lanka, Cambodia and the United States.
However, Taiwan police have recovered most of the money with the help of counterparts in other countries, the reports said.
Bank officials were not immediately available for comment.
Sri Lankan police investigated a similar theft in February last year when hackers broke into the computer system of the Bangladesh central bank and transferred $20 million of stolen money to a Sri Lankan businesswoman.
The money was recovered and a court investigation is pending.