SYDNEY: Australia's Westpac bank has agreed to pay a record A$1.3 billion (US$923 million) fine for more than 23 million breaches of money-laundering laws, the bank and regulators announced Thursday (Sep 24).
"I would like to apologise sincerely for the bank's failings," Peter King, Westpac's chief executive, said in announcing the fine, the largest civil penalty in Australian history.
The fine, agreed between Westpac and AUSTRAC, Australia's financial intelligence watchdog, must be approved by a federal court.
AUSTRAC said the proposed fine "reflects the seriousness and magnitude of compliance failings by Westpac", one of the country's biggest banks.
The fine exceeded the provision of A$900 million Westpac budgeted earlier this year to cover the expected penalty.
The regulator accused Westpac in November 2019 of wholesale breaches of money-laundering and counter-terrorism regulations 23 million times, involving more than US$7 billion dollars in funds.
Among the most damaging allegations against Westpac, the regulator accused bank executives of "indifference" to evidence that some international transfers were being used to fund child exploitation.
AUSTRAC said the bank had been aware of heightened risks associated with frequent small payments destined for Southeast Asia since 2013 and had been "specifically briefed" on the risks with respect to one of its money transfer channels in June 2016.
Westpac's chief executive, Brian Hartzer, subsequently resigned over the scandal, handing over to King, the bank's chief financial officer at the time.
The company chairman, Lindsay Maxsted, also stepped down.
King on Thursday said Westpac had beefed up its financial crime monitoring capabilities and undertaken a "reassessment of our culture, governance and accountability" to prevent futRead More – Source