The resemblances grew Friday between Refco ( RFXCQ), the fallen New York commodities brokerage, and its Austrian patron, the Bank Fur Arbeit und Wirtschaft, or Bawag. Both were involved in hiding hundreds of millions of dollars in bad debts and losses, for one thing. Bawag officials said Friday that by the end of 2000, the bank had run up $1.2 billion in losses, much of them stemming from a series of bad investments made by a hedge fund run by the son of a former CEO. Vienna-based Bawag shifted the losses to six obscure Anguilla-based companies and several brokerage accounts at Refco, until it could eventually write off all its bad debts by 2005. The off-the-books maneuvering bought Bawag time to clean up its act and avoid attracting negative publicity. Bawag says it has since been to able "absorb the losses'' and "there are no further exposures on our books.'' The latest revelation adds a new twist to last year's collapse of Refco, in which Bawag continues to be a pivotal player. Separately, TheStreet.com has learned that Bawag's one-time ownership interest in Refco may have been far greater than the 10% equity stake that's been previously reported. Indeed, the behind-the-scenes shifting of debt by the bank is eerily similar to the scheme hatched by former Refco CEO Phillip Bennett, who allegedly hid hundreds of millions of dollars in customer trading losses in a series of hedge funds and a private company he controlled, Refco Group Holdings Inc. Just days after Refco revealed Bennett's scheme last October, the former CEO was indicted on federal securities fraud charges; he is awaiting trial. Bawag, a one-time minority owner of Refco, got dragged into the Refco scandal when it was revealed that the bank made a $410 million loan to Bennett just hours before the brokerage disclosed the hidden debt scheme. Bennett used the Bawag loan proceeds to pay down the debt he'd been hiding from investors.