Australia’s financial intelligence and regulatory agency initiated, on 3 August, civil penalty proceedings in the Federal Court against the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) for “serious and systemic non-compliance” with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism laws.
In a statement, AUSTRAC said that CBA had breached the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF Act).
AUSTRAC acting CEO Peter Clark said that the regulator’s decision to commence civil proceedings against the major bank follows an investigation by AUSTRAC into CBA’s compliance, particularly regarding its use of intelligent deposit machines (IDMs).
AUSTRAC’s action alleges over 53,700 contraventions of the AML/CTF Act.
The financial intelligence regulator alleges that CBA did not comply with its own AML/CTF program, because it did not carry out any assessment of the money laundering and terrorism financing (ML/TF) risk of IDMs before their rollout in 2012. AUSTRAC alleges that CBA took no steps to assess the ML/TF risk until mid-2015, three years after they were introduced.
“For a period of three years, CBA did not comply with the requirements of its AML/CTF program relating to monitoring transactions on 778,370 accounts,” the regulator said.
“CBA failed to give 53,506 threshold transaction reports (TTRs) to AUSTRAC on time for cash transactions of $10,000 or more through IDMs from November 2012 to September 2015.
“These late TTRs represent approximately 95 per cent of the threshold transactions that occurred through the bank’s IDMs from November 2012 to September 2015 and had a total value of around $624.7 million.”
Meanwhile, AUSTRAC alleges that the bank failed to report suspicious matters either on time or at all involving transactions totaling more than $77 million.
“Even after CBA became aware of suspected money laundering or structuring on CBA accounts, it did not monitor its customers to mitigate and manage ML/TF risk, including the ongoing ML/TF risks of doing business with those customers.”
AUSTRAC’s Mr Clark said that today’s action should “send a clear message” to all reporting entities about the importance of meeting their AML/CTF obligations.
"By failing to have sound AML/CTF systems and controls in place, businesses are at risk of being misused for criminal purposes," Mr Clark said.
"AUSTRAC's goal is to have a financial sector that is vigilant and capable of responding, including through innovation, to threats of criminal exploitation,” he said.
"We believe this can be achieved by working collaboratively with and supporting industry. We will continue to work in this way with our industry partners who also share this aim and demonstrate a strong commitment to it."
James Mitchell has over eight years’ experience as a financial reporter and is the editor of Wealth and Wellness at Momentum Media.
He has a sound pedigree to cover the business of mortgages and the converging financial services sector having reported for leading finance titles InvestorDaily, InvestorWeekly, Accountants Daily, ifa, Mortgage Business, Residential Property Manager, Real Estate Business, SMSF Adviser, Smart Property Investment, and The Adviser.
He has also been published in The Daily Telegraph and contributed online to FST Media and Mergermarket, part of the Financial Times Group.
James holds a BA (Hons) in English Literature and an MA in Journalism.
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