World Economy

Australia’s CBA Vows to Fight Money Laundering Claims

Australia’s CBA Vows to Fight Money Laundering ClaimsAustralia’s CBA Vows to Fight Money Laundering Claims

Australia’s biggest bank Monday admitted mistakes were made but vowed to defend claims it breached money laundering and terrorism financing laws, which could result in massive fines.

The Commonwealth Bank, Australia’s biggest company by market capitalization, was taken to court last week by the country’s financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC, accused of “serious and systemic non-compliance” with the legislation, AFP reported.

It is facing civil action for allegedly breaching the laws 53,700 times, particularly in relation to its cash deposit machines.

Chief executive Ian Narev, who is facing calls to resign, admitted “mistakes were made” and said he was focused on dealing with the issue. “We take it extremely seriously, right up to the board level and I as CEO am spending a lot of time on this at the moment,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation ahead of the bank’s annual results announcement on Wednesday.

“We’ve got a very big and important job to do and if we haven’t done a good enough job we need to put our hands up, say why, and do a better job—we’re doing that.”

The CBA is accused of failing to deliver to AUSTRAC on time 53,506 reports for cash transactions of Aus$10,000 ($7,900) or more at the machines between November 2012 and September 2015, with a total value of Aus$624.7 million.

It also failed to report suspicious transactions on time, or at all, that totaled Aus$77 million, and did not monitor customers or manage the risk even after becoming aware of suspected money laundering, the agency claimed.

While each breach could attract Aus$18 million in fines, potentially running into the billions of dollars, Narev said a single coding error was likely responsible for many of them.

“When people understand the legal principles that are involved, those sort of numbers are completely out of the ballpark,” he said of the potential for huge fines.

“I understand 53,000 sounds like a big number. One very important piece of context is that the vast majority related to one software coding error in 2012 that we picked up in 2015, fixed within a month and rectified.” In a statement, the lender said it was preparing a defense.

“In the meantime, CBA remains committed to continuously improve its compliance with the Anti-Money Laundering/Counter Terrorism Act and will continue to keep AUSTRAC abreast of those efforts,” it added.





Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints