Westpac accused of 23 million anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism breaches

One of Australia’s biggest banks could be facing massive fines after the country’s top financial accused it of breaking the law 23 million times.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) is accusing Westpac of having repeatedly failed to live up to the country’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws. Each breach carries a maximum penalty of AUS$21m ($7.5m), the BBC reported.

AUSTRAC has stated that Westpac did not accurately report over 19.5 million international fund transfers between 2013 and 2018, accounting for more than AUS$11bn.

The regulator’s chief executive Nicole Rose said this undermined “the integrity of Australia’s financial system”.

AUSTRAC also alleged that Westpac did neither retained records nor performed proper due diligence about banks in high-risk countries like Ukraine, Zimbabwe and Iraq.

In a statement, Brian Hartzer, CEO of Wetpac, responded to the accusations, saying, “We recognise these are very serious and important issues. We are committed to assisting AUSTRAC and law enforcement agencies to stop financial crime.

“These issues should never have occurred and should have been identified and rectified sooner. It is disappointing that we have not met our own standards as well as regulatory expectations and requirements.

“Like many banks around the world, we have been heavily investing in a program of work to improve and bolster the management of financial crime risks including strengthening our policies, data feeding systems, processes and controls.

“We have implemented a range of additional steps in our processes including enhanced automatic detection systems and we continue to proactively engage with AUSTRAC to close any remaining gaps to meet their requirements as well as our own expectations.”

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