Money laundering watchdog hunts Westpac

Australia’s financial intelligence agency is pursuing Westpac for alleged breaches of money laundering and counter-terror laws.

Nov 20, 2019, updated Nov 20, 2019
Photo: AAP/Ellen Smith

Photo: AAP/Ellen Smith

AUSTRAC chief executive Nicole Rose said the bank failed to report more than 19.5 million international fund transfers amounting to more than $11 billion over nearly five years.

“Westpac failed to pass on information about the origin of international funds transfers and keep records as required,” she told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

Rose said Westpac also failed to do customer due diligence on high-risk transactions to the Philippines and Southeast Asia with potential child exploitation risks.

“AUSTRAC alleges that Westpac’s oversight of its corresponding banking services was deficient, and that its oversight of its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing program was also deficient.”

She said the failures resulted in serious and systemic breaches of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws, which were allegedly broken 23 million times.

“This resulted in a significant loss of intelligence to AUSTRAC and our national security and law enforcement partners,” Rose said.

Any penalties will be decided in court, with civil proceedings now underway.

Rose said business were the first line of defence to protect the financial system from criminal abuse.

“This is an important reminder to all financial services businesses to be vigilant about money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing risks and understand their obligations,” she said.

InDaily in your inbox. The best local news every workday at lunch time.
By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement andPrivacy Policy & Cookie Statement. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Westpac says it self-reported the failure to report a large number of international funds transfer instructions to AUSTRAC.

“AUSTRAC was also investigating a number of other areas relating to Westpac’s processes, procedures and oversight,” the company said in a statement.

“Westpac is currently reviewing AUSTRAC’s statement of claim and will issue a further statement to the ASX once it has been assessed.”

National Australia Bank last week admitted it faces a huge fine for multiple possible breaches of counter terrorism and anti-money laundering laws.

Commonwealth Bank was fined a record $700 million in 2018 for serious breaches of the same laws.


Want to comment?

Send us an email, making it clear which story you’re commenting on and including your full name (required for publication) and phone number (only for verification purposes). Please put “Reader views” in the subject.

We’ll publish the best comments in a regular “Reader Views” post. Your comments can be brief, or we can accept up to 350 words, or thereabouts.

InDaily has changed the way we receive comments. Go here for an explanation.

Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InDaily.
All rights reserved.