The financial crimes watchdog will conduct a deeper probe into Westpac over its failure to properly vet international transactions potentially linked to child exploitation that could increase by over 20 times the number of alleged breaches of anti-money laundering laws the bank faces.
The country’s second largest bank was thrown into turmoil last November when the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) accused it of breaching anti-money laundering laws over 23 million times, including a failure to properly vet payments potentially linked to paedophilia.
The lawsuit led to the resignation of chief executive Brian Hartzer and the early retirement of veteran chairman Lindsay Maxsted. Furious shareholders also voted for a second strike against the bank’s executive pay report at its AGM.
In the wake of the scandal, the bank reviewed its payments monitoring processes and updated its technology to better detect evidence of payments potentially linked to paedophilia. This resulted in the discovery of an additional 272 customers with payment transaction patterns that were indicative of child exploitation and Westpac self-reported these to AUSTRAC in December.