Westpac’s CEO Steps Down Amid Huge Child Exploitation & Money Laundering Scandal

The CEO of Westpac has announced his resignation after the bank was accused of, you know, breaching Australia’s anti-money laundering guidelines around 23 million times.

That’s not “in transactions totalling $23 million”, folks. Over 23 million separate transactions, each potentially linked to terrorism, child exploitation, or handled without adequate notice to authorities. Truly gnarly shit.

ABC reports Brian Hartzer, Westpac CEO, has announced he will step down in a year’s time. His decision comes nearly a week after AUSTRAC, the nation’s financial sector watchdog, accused the bank of seriously sleeping on its obligations under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF) agreement.

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Given the scale of the alleged wrongdoing, it makes sense he’d step down.

Here’s the briefest possible rundown of Westpac’s alleged wrongdoing: the bank has been accused of overlooking transactions to the Philippines and South East Asia which were suggestive of funding for child exploitation. It allegedly dropped the ball on transactions involving so-called correspondent banks overseas, which may have been linked to criminal money laundering or terrorism financing. And, in 19.5 million cases, Westpac is accused of failing to accurately report international transaction info to AUSTRAC, allegedly depriving the organisation of info it could have used to protect the Australian financial system.

AUSTRAC is now seeking civil penalties against Westpac for the alleged breaches. There are some truly huge numbers at play here, and a peek at AUSTRAC’s successful 2018 case against Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) gives some idea of how cooked Westpac could be. In that case, CBA was slugged $700 million for breaches of the AML/CTF Act, for a comparatively measly 53,700-ish contraventions.

Despite overseeing the bank while it allegedly dropped the ball literally millions of times, The Daily Telegraph reports Hartzer told board members the matter is “not a major issue” for everyday Australians and that Westpac folks “don’t need to overcook this”.

He also gave the bank a year’s notice on his decision, and will receive his $2.7 million salary in the interim.

How good. Watch this space for AUSTRAC’s progress on the lawsuit front, and for how many zeroes they attempt to extract from the bank.