Court Approves AUSTRAC’s AU$1.3 Billion Fine on Westpac

This is the largest civil penalty faced by anyone in Australia.

The Federal Court of Australia has agreed on the deal struck between the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) and Westpac, ordering the Australian bank to pay AU$1.3 billion (around $0.92 billion) for its breaches of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF Act).

The court order came only a month after the two agreed upon the hefty fine. The amount is the highest civil penalty paid by anyone in Australia.

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“Financial institutions must ensure they have strong compliance systems, processes and resources in place to protect the Australian community and their businesses from criminals and criminal threats,” AUSTRAC CEO, Nicole Rose PSM said.

“To maintain public confidence in Australia’s financial system and prevent future non-compliance, AUSTRAC will not hesitate to take action when these obligations are not met. This is aligned with AUSTRAC’s role and community expectations.”

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Some Serious Compliance Lapses by the Bank

As Finance Magnates reported earlier, the bank admitted to contravening the AML/CTF Act on more than 23 million occasions, which ranged from failing to report international funds instructions, inadequate record-keeping and customer due diligence, and other breaches.

Additionally, it failed to carry out proper due diligence of the customers with suspicious transactions, which might have associated with child exploitation.

In its announcement, AUSTRAC highlighted that the astronomical amount shows the seriousness of the compliance failures on the part of the bank.

“AUSTRAC is committed to working collaboratively with Westpac and all regulated businesses to support them to understand and meet their obligations to protect Australia’s financial system from criminal threats,” Rose added.

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