Westpac accused of breaching money laundering, counter terror laws

22 Novembre, 2019, 05:08 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • ASX charting of Westpac Banking Corporation in the last six months. Image ASX

Rose stated Westpac had unsuccessful to hold out "appropriate owing diligence on customers sending income to the Philippines and Southeast Asia for regarded boy or girl exploitation hazards".

Ms Rose said Westpac also failed to pass on information about the origin of global funds transfers and keep required records.

Each breach of money laundering laws has the potential to incur a penalty between A$17 and A$21 million.

AUSTRAC is pursuing Westpac for alleged breaches of money laundering and counter-terror laws across "several key areas".

Most of the breaches concern a failure to report global transfers to Austrac in a timely manner.

"Serious and systemic non-compliance leaves our financial system open to being exploited by criminals", said Rose.

"The failure to pass on information about worldwide funds transfer instructions to Austrac undermines the integrity of Australia's financial system and hinders Austrac's ability to track down the origins of financial transactions, when required to support police investigations", Rose added.

It argues Westpac failed to implement the necessary automated detection procedure on this transaction. "We are committed to assisting Austrac and law enforcement agencies to stop financial crime", he says.

"These issues should never have occurred and should have been identified and rectified sooner", he said in a statement.

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Hartzer said he accepted most of the regulator's assertions but "at a senior executive level, for the board, for me personally, in no way have we been indifferent on this".

"The risks posed Westpac is that these high-risk or state sanctions might have been able to access the Australian payments system through nesting arrangement, without the knowledge of Westpac", AUSTRAC said in a statement.

The lawsuit dwarfs a case AUSTRAC brought against larger Commonwealth Bank of Australia which agreed past year https://www.reuters.com/article/australia-cba-moneylaundering/australias-commonwealth-bank-to-settle-civil-proceedings-by-austrac-idUSL3N1T50QC to pay a record A$700 million penalty after admitting to allowing 53,750 payments that violated similar protocols.

AUSTRAC declined to comment when asked by Reuters if it was conducting similar investigations on the other two of Australia's so-called Big Four banks, National Australia Bank and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.

Westpac is charged with maintaining relationships with offshore banks without assessing their business relationships or banking products, even when those banks disclosed relationships with "high risk" countries, including Iraq, Ukraine, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The dirty money watchdog alleges almost 3,000 transactions indicative of child exploitation payments - totalling about $480,000 - were made by 12 Westpac customers.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was "appalled" and said Australia's banks need to "lift their game".

Westpac detected suspicious activity in one account but failed to review the other accounts and "this customer continued to send frequent low value payments to the Philippines through channels that were not being monitored appropriately", AUSTRAC said.

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