Westpac, Australia’s second-largest bank, agreed to pay the largest fine in Australian corporate history, a $920 million penalty for breaches that included a failure to detect transfers that may have been used to facilitate child exploitation in Asia. The institution self-reported some of the breaches to the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac) last year and made shareholders aware of the investigation.
Most of the breaches involved the bank’s failure to report international transfers to the regulator in a timely fashion. The bank also failed to retain records and carry out due diligence checks with potentially high-risk banks. “The failure to pass on information undermines the integrity of Australia’s financial system and hinders Austrac’s ability to track down the origins of financial transactions, when required to support police investigations,” said Austrac CEO, Nicole Rose.
The nation’s banking sector was also the subject of a royal commission – Australia’s highest form of public inquiry last year that exposed widespread wrongdoing in the industry. The cases come amid many investigations around the world into top banks for their alleged failures to prevent money laundering.