Westpac shares fall on AUSTRAC allegations


Westpac shares have fallen at the open after Australia’s financial intelligence agency accused the country’s second-largest lender of breaching anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws more than 23 million times.


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The bank’s share price was 2.15 per cent lower at $25.98 after 50 minutes of trade on the Australian Securities Exchange on Wednesday, hitting a fresh six-month low of $25.90 along the way.

The AUSTRAC court action – which also involves allegations Westpac failed to properly investigate transactions to the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia related to potential exploitation of children – could lead to a huge fine for Westpac.

Rival Commonwealth Bank last year settled a similar case related to 53,000 breaches for an Australian corporate record $700 million.

Shares in ANZ and NAB were both more than one per cent lower, seemingly dragged down by the news, while Commonwealth Bank – already dealt with by AUSTRAC – was the best performer with a decline of about half that.

Westpac acknowledged the statement of claim by AUSTRAC and said it would respond to the ASX after looking through it.

Source: Thanks msn.com