Westpac accused of money laundering breaches worth £5.8bn

Bank didn’t monitor suspicious transactions relating to potential child exploitation

Westpac accused of money laundering breaches worth 5.8bn                                 

Westpac has been accused of 23 million breaches of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws, worth more than A$11bn ($7.5bn, £5.8bn).

According to Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac) Westpac failed to report more than 19.5 million international fund transfers between 2013 and 2018.

The bank allegedly also failed to keep records on the origin of some of the fund transfers or carry out due diligence on transactions to the Philippines and south-east Asia, some of which related to “potential child exploitation risks”.

Austrac chief executive officer, Nicole Rose, said: “These AML/CTF laws are in place to protect Australia’s financial system, businesses and the community from criminal exploitation. Serious and systemic non-compliance leaves our financial system open to being exploited by criminals.”

This case is the biggest breach of money-laundering laws in Australia’s history, with Westpac facing penalty charges of up to A$21m per offence.

Westpac's competitor Commonwealth Bank paid a A$700m fine for similar breaches in 2018.

A statement by Westpac said it had previously self-reported its failure to disclose a large number of international fund transfers to Austrac. According to Westpac chief executive, Brian Hartzer, they are now taking steps to meet Austrac expectations, which includes automatic detection systems.

“These issues should never have occurred and should have been identified and rectified sooner,” said Hartzer.

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