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Top Ethiopian bank recoups 80% of losses after ‘glitch’ let customers withdraw money they didn’t have

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Mar 26, 2024

Ethiopia’s biggest bank says it has recouped nearly 80% of the cash it lost during what it says was a glitch in its system that allowed customers to take out more money than they had in their accounts.

Abe Sano, president of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, told reporters Tuesday that around $14 million was withdrawn or digitally transferred during the error. The value of the transactions ranged from 9 cents to $5,350, he said. The amount lost initially was reported as $40 million.

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Nearly 15,000 people have voluntarily returned funds that were “taken illegally,” the bank said in a statement. But 567 individuals haven’t yet returned money that is not theirs. On Tuesday, the bank posted their names and account details online, in an apparent attempt to shame them into giving it back.

“The total amount remaining is not significant for the bank, but if this money is not fully recouped, it sends the wrong message,” Abe said.

News of the glitch spread on social media on March 16. Much of the money was withdrawn by university students. Several universities have publicly urged their students to return the cash.

The problem was caused by a “routine system update and inspection” rather than a cyberattack, according to Ethiopia’s central bank.

Established in 1963, the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia is the country’s largest bank with 40 million customers.

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