A federal minister has accused Westpac’s bosses of giving a free pass to paedophiles over allegations the bank failed to pick up transactions linked with child trafficking and sex offences.
Financial crime watchdog AUSTRAC announced last week it was taking the bank to court over an alleged 23 million breaches of money laundering laws.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the incidents were completely unacceptable.
“It is clear that the Westpac banking bosses, through their negligence, have given a free pass to paedophiles,” he told parliament on Monday.
“There is a price to pay for that and that price will be paid and we have been very clear about it.”
He noted an earlier action against the Commonwealth Bank for nearly 54,000 breaches of money laundering and counterterrorism laws resulted in a $700 million (US$480 million) fine.
“Our laws in this country apply equally to all and we want to make sure that those companies, those entities, those organisations that breach their obligations under the law pay a penalty for it,” he told Question Time.
“We have no more important undertaking as a government than to keep Australian children safe … it is clear that the Westpac banking bosses have failed that obligation.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the banks would face the full force of the law.
“They’ll be pursued by investigative agencies such as AUSTRAC, who have been given the resources and powers to get on with the job, and they will have the availability of the Banking Executive Accountability Regime to punt those who are responsible under the law,” he told parliament.