Australian bank to pay record fine for money laundering

Cornelia Mascio
Settembre 24, 2020

Westpac has been forced to cough up more than a billion dollars in penalties to the financial crimes watchdog for making 23 million financial law breaches in 2019.

The settlement brings to an end an nearly yearlong saga for Australia's second-biggest bank, after it was accused of more than 23 million breaches of money-laundering laws, including failing to detect payments linked to child abuse.

Our role is to harden the financial system against serious crime and terrorism financing and this penalty reflects the serious and systemic nature of Westpacs non-compliance, Rose said in a statement.

AUSTRAC said the breaches included suspicious transactions associated with possible child exploitation as well as failure to assess risks of money laundering and terrorism financing.

I would like to apologize sincerely for the banks failings, King said in a statement.

The fine exceeded the provision of $900 million Westpac budgeted earlier this year to cover the expected penalty.

Among the most damaging allegations against Westpac, the regulator accused bank executives of "indifference" to evidence that some global transfers were being used to fund child exploitation.

Westpac's chief executive, Brian Hartzer, subsequently resigned over the scandal, handing over to King, the bank's chief financial officer at the time.

Australia's second-largest bank has been ordered to pay Austrac $1.3 billion after investigations a year ago revealed it had allowed transactions and transfers that funded terrorism and human trafficking.

Australia's banking industry, one of the world's most profitable, is facing an array of challenges. "We are committed to fixing the issues to ensure that these mistakes do not happen again", he said in a statement Thursday.

It found banks had charged fees to dead people and to others for no services at all, used aggressive sales tactics and provided poor advice that led to significant financial upheaval for clients.

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