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Ethiopia bank customers find out they can withdraw more money than they have in their accounts, so they withdraw over $40m

March 19, 2024
Commercial Bank of Ethiopia
Commercial Bank of Ethiopia

's largest commercial bank, the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE), is facing challenges as it attempts to recoup substantial sums of money withdrawn by customers following a “systems glitch.”

The issue emerged early on Saturday when customers discovered they could withdraw more cash than they had in their accounts at CBE. Reports suggest that over $40 million was withdrawn or transferred to other banks before the institution was able to freeze transactions, which took several hours to implement.

According to CBE President Abe Sano, much of the withdrawn funds came from students, and news of the glitch spread rapidly across university campuses via messaging apps and phone calls. Long lines formed at campus ATMs as students rushed to withdraw money, with some continuing until police intervened to halt the transactions.

While the exact amount withdrawn during the incident has not been disclosed, Mr Sano assured the public that the bank's overall assets were not significantly affected. He clarified that the bank was not targeted by a cyber-attack and reassured customers that their accounts remained secure.

The Ethiopian Central Bank attributed the glitch to maintenance and inspection activities but did not address the funds withdrawn by customers in its statement.

CBE has since urged customers, particularly students, to return any money not rightfully theirs, stating that individuals who voluntarily return the funds will not face criminal charges. However, the success of these efforts remains uncertain.

Reports indicate that some students are returning the money, while bank employees are actively collecting funds on university campuses. Nonetheless, the full extent of the bank's recovery efforts remains unclear.

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