Updated Saturday 8.10am with BoV reaction

Clients of Bank of Valletta are up in arms as payments to third parties remain unavailable over a week after a cyber attack that saw hackers make away with €13 million. 

Several clients told the Times of Malta that despite the bank resuming its services a day after, payments to third parties were still not being processed, with some ending up without any money as a result. 

But a spokesman said on Saturday a backlog of around 6,000 payment orders had been brought down to about 300 by Friday night in a race against time to put a halt to the disruption.

Read: BOV goes dark after hackers go after €13m

Less than 24 hours after the breach, the bank issued a statement saying it had resumed operations, however, payments to and from third parties were still not being handled since it was the particular system that processed such payments that was breached. 

One client who spoke to Times of Malta on the condition of anonymity described how she only had €19 in cash and “no access to her own money” since non-euro funds were not being released into accounts. 

“They were unable to offer any short-term solution to our dire predicament,” the client said, pointing out that, when contacted, the bank said that a complaint should be lodged online. 

Another described how he was forced to “fish out information”, insisting that he was not supplied with any details on when the service would be back to normal.

They told us specifically that they have no idea if it is days or weeks

“There is no information whatsoever on when this will be resolved. They told us specifically that they have no idea if it is days or weeks,” the irked client said.

Account holders in the UK have also complained that the bank would not even issue a form of proof or explanation that could be used to present to their landlords, for instance. One client said that his rent is already late by a week and there seemed to be no end in sight, with the bank refusing to provide timelines. 

A number of business owners have also contacted Times of Malta expressing concern that problems had not yet been fixed, lamenting the negative impact the issue would have on their own operations.

Video: Mark Zammit Cordina

Asked about the issue on Friday, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said he was not in a position to comment on whether the funds had been traced and retrieved, insisting that it would be the bank that made such statements. 

“There’s no need for the minister to prod into that. It’s up to them because it’s a public company and they have shareholders, a board of directors and you should ask them.  I’m sure that they would report the outcome in a transparent manner. I’m sure they are doing their utmost to recall and trace those funds but it’s up to the bank to report on that,” Prof. Scicluna said.

Bank operations are now close to normal - BoV

In a statement, Bank of Valletta said its third-party payment services outside the euro area are being reactivated from its branch network and will endeavor to have them fully operational by Monday. The bank is in the meantime working to also reinstate these payments through internet banking.

The bank's euro area payments were activated last week and are operational through all BOV channels in the normal manner.

Over the past days, bank employees focused their efforts on restoring normal service, as well as on clearing up backlogs which accumulated due to the incident, BoV said in a statement.

"The bank's operations are now close to normal. Payments of salaries, social benefits and pensions, both local and international, are proceeding as usual and the bulk payment functionality, on the bank’s internet banking, has also been reinstated."

The cyber incident is currently the subject of a criminal inquiry.

Bank of Valletta thanked its customers and employees and said any queries should be directed to customercare@bov.com or 2131 2020.

Additional reporting Philip Leone Ganado and Jacob Borg.

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