Westpac bank to pay US $ 923m fine for money laundering

Australia’s Westpac bank will pay A $ 1.3 billion (US $ 923 million) fine for more than 23 million anti-money laundering violations, the bank and regulators said Thursday.

‘I want to sincerely apologize for the bank’s mistakes,’ Westpac CEO Peter King said as he announced the fine, one of the largest in Australian business history. The fine, agreed between Westpac and AUSTRAC, Australia’s financial policeman, has yet to be approved by a federal court.

According to AUSTRAC, the proposed fine ‘reflects the seriousness and scale of the breaches of Westpac’, one of Australia’s largest banks.

AUSTRAC accused Westpac in November 2019 of violating money laundering and anti-terrorism prevention regulations 23 million times, amounting to more than US $ 7 billion.

Bank officials are accused, among other things, of ‘indifference’ to certain international transfers of funds that have been used for the exploitation of children.

Poor management of the sector

Westpac boss Brian Hartzer resigned over the scandal in favor of Peter King, who was then chief financial officer. President Lindsay Maxsted has also resigned.

On Thursday, Peter King assured that Westpac has improved its skills in the monitoring of financial crimes in order to prevent similar situations in the future.

Australia’s banking industry, one of the most profitable in the world, faces a host of challenges. The country’s four major banks – CBA, Westpac, National Australia Bank (NAB) and ANZ – were investigated in 2019 which revealed serious mismanagement of the sector.

Advice contrary to the interests of clients or charges levied on people who have been dead for ten years were revealed in the report of the commission of inquiry. The four banks were forced to pay several hundred million dollars in damages.

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