Westpac appoints AUSTRAC panel member amid paedophilia charges

Westpac has appointed its final member for its AUSTRAC Accountability Review Panel while an Australian man has been charged with paedophilia as he was suspected to have used the Westpac’s transfer system to pay for live-streamed child abuse videos in south-east Asia.

In an announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), the bank said it had appointed Colin Cater to the three-member panel to assess board risk governance and accountability in relation to the issues raised in AUSTRAC’s statement of claim regarding the bank’s oversight of its Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Program.

Carter has over 30 years of experience in management consulting, advising on organisational strategy and governance issues.

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“He has carried out board performance reviews for a number of companies and has wide industry knowledge of corporate governance issues,” the announcement said.

Carter is currently an independent non-executive director at Lendlease, a director of the National Golf Club and Australian Ballet Foundation, and president of the Geelong Football Club.

The other panel members include Dr Ziggy Switkowski and Dr Kerry Schott.

Reports by the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday said that the “criminal charges against the man came after the bank had been privately suggesting to the market since the scandal broke in late November that there was no evidence any act of child exploitation had occurred despite more than 3000 suspicious payments being identified”.

It said the man allegedly used Westpac systems to send tens of thousands of dollars to a south-east Asian country in over 100 transactions since late 2018 and recently attempted to solicit live-streamed child sex abuse and had served a substantial jail term for this.

The man denied any wrongdoing.

The report said a Westpac spokesman said: “We have made a number of changes to our transaction monitoring to lift our standards and ensure our financial crime processes meet our obligations.

“Westpac is working co-operatively to resolve this matter with AUSTRAC.”

The SMH said: “The federal and state police Joint Anti-Child Exploitation Team has been investigating numerous referrals about Australian-based sex offenders since AUSTRAC launched civil proceedings against Westpac in November 2019 for committing 23 million violations of anti-money laundering laws stemming back to 2013.

“Among AUSTRAC's allegations are that Westpac should have detected the activities of at least 12 customers, including a convicted child abuser, who were making transactions through the bank’s systems ‘consistent with child exploitation typologies’ since 2013, according to Federal Court documents.”

It said AUSTRAC claimed it warned the bank in late 2016 about the risk of international funds transfer being used to purchase child exploitation material.

AUSTRAC allege that Westpac repeatedly failed to implement an “adequate” system to detect and respond to financial activities that had potential to be related to child exploitation – at least until June 2018.

The case continues in the Federal Court.

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