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Australia’s financial giant, Westpac, accused of money laundering violations

Australia’s second-largest bank Westpac has been charged with the most significant violation of money laundering and terrorist financing laws in the country’s history, including failure to detect transfers that could have been used to facilitate the exploitation of children in Asia.

Westpac Corp. Banking. Allegedly violated money laundering laws more than 23 million times, including failing to report around $7.5 billion in international transfers promptly, Australia’s financial intelligence agency said Wednesday in a court filing.

Every single violation could incur a fine of up to $21 million Australian dollars (US$ 15.7 million).

Australia’s banks once had a reputation as one of the best and most profitable shareholders in the nation, but a string of controversies have shaken the top financial institutions in the country in recent years. Last year, Australia’s largest lender of the country, Commonwealth Bank, settled a case involving more than 53,800 money laundering contraventions for A$ 700 million plus legal costs, Australia’s largest corporate civil penalty ever paid. It might have faced more than A$ 1 trillion in penalties.

“We know we need to do more,” said Westpac Chief Executive Brian Hartzer, telling reporters that the company complied with Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Center or Austrac’s assertion of argument.

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