Monday 21 October 2019

Incoming Central Bank Governor told NZ budget had not been hacked

Gabriel Makhlouf. Photo: Bloomberg
Gabriel Makhlouf. Photo: Bloomberg
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Incoming Central Bank Governor Gabriel Makhlouf was told by New Zealand top spy agencies that the country’s budget had not been hacked before he issued a statement stating that it had been, according to media reports today.

The New Zealand government has launched an investigation into Mr Makhlouf’s handling of an alleged budget leak last week, including whether he misled ministers about a claimed cyber hacking.

He is currently the top civil servant in the country’s Treasury, or department of finance, but due to take up a post as Central Bank Governor here in September.  

Labour’s Joan Burton has insisted the appointment should be suspended pending the results of an inquiry in New Zealand.

Today, the New Zealand Herald has reported that New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) – a spy agency – told Mr Makhlouf his department had not been hacked before he issued a statement saying it had.

The Treasury had sought advice from the GCSB about its computer system after parts of the annual budget had leaked.  But the spy agency said it was not a matter for its cybersecurity unit because they did think there had been any.

Gabriel Makhlouf referred the matter to police to investigate, met with New Zealand Finance Minister Grant Robertson and then issued a statement, in which Mr Makhlouf said the Treasury had been "systematically hacked".

It later emerged that the leaked budget documents had been accessible on the Treasury’s own website.

The growing controversy about Mr Makhlouf’s role in the handling of the alleged leak a week ago comes just weeks after Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe named him as the surprise choice to take over as Central Bank governor from Philip Lane.

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