Tech & Science Former Westpac exec plays down role in laundering scandal

07:56  27 november  2019
07:56  27 november  2019 Source:   theage.com.au

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The former head of Westpac's Institutional Bank and current Commonwealth Bank director, Rob Whitfield, has distanced himself from the money laundering scandal engulfing Westpac as the corporate regulator confirmed it was investigating potential breaches of the law.

Mr Whitfield was the head of Westpac's Institutional Bank division from July 2009 to July 2015 – during the time the bank was first warned by the financial crimes watchdog that suspicious payments could be linked to child exploitation in the Philippines.

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The chief executive and chairman of Westpac will step down following a money- laundering scandal , in which it emerged the Australian The resignation of Mr Hartzer follows pressure on the board by shareholders, which held meetings with Mr Maxsted on Monday about the money- laundering scandal .

Westpac is the third of Australia's four major banks to lose one or both of its top executives following scandals in a year-and-a-half, underscoring Australia's Westpac Banking said on Tuesday its CEO will step down and its chairman will bring forward his retirement amid a money- laundering scandal .

Financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC last week accused Westpac of breaching anti-money laundering laws 23 million times in a scandal that has led to widespread condemnation of the bank and could eventually cost chairman Lindsay Maxsted and chief executive officer Brian Hartzer their jobs.

On Monday, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) took the unusual step of publicly confirming it was investigating Westpac.

AUSTRAC has not singled out individual executives responsible for the scandal and the bank has since launched an independent review to figure out who is to blame.

Responsibility for the international fund transfer service at the centre of the child exploitation allegations, LitePay, and botched International Funds Transfer Instructions (IFTIs) reporting system rests with Westpac's Institutional Bank division.

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Westpac was sued by Australian regulators last week for an alleged 23 million breaches of counter-terrorism financing and money- laundering laws. Most of the offences concerned the late reporting of overseas transactions. But the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac) said

The chief executive of Australia's Westpac Banking Corp stepped down on Tuesday over a money laundering scandal involving child exploitation, just a day after he told staff it was "not a major issue" and that he intended to stay on.

AUSTRAC said in its concise statement lodged in the Federal Court last Wednesday that it warned Westpac of "heightened child exploitation risks" from at least 2013 and that the bank did not fix the issue until June 2018.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Rob Whitfield had a 30-year history at Westpac. © Dominic Lorrimer Rob Whitfield had a 30-year history at Westpac. Mr Whitfield distanced himself from the scandal when asked about LitePay by the Sydney Morning Herald and Age.

"I’m not aware of the LitePay product so I think that may have come well after my time," he said. "The LitePay product I don’t believe was institutional substantially until after I left the organisation, which was four-and-a-half years ago."

LitePay, which has been cancelled as a response to the scandal, was launched in 2016 as a lower cost option for low-value payments. LitePay enabled customers to transfer a maximum of $3000 per day to countries including the Philippines for a fee ranging from $5 to $8.

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Spectacular failure: This is one scandal Westpac can't play down . Skip to sections navigation Skip to content Skip to footer. Our network. Westpac has allegedly breached millions more than CBA's 53,750 alleged breaches of the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism finance laws.

Westpac breached money- laundering and anti-terrorist financing laws on 23m occasions, Austrac In its statement, Westpac said it would close down its international payments system LitePay, which As a major bank we play a critical role in helping law enforcement agencies prevent criminals from

While Mr Whitfield was not working at Westpac at the time Litepay was launched, he was in charge of the Westpac Institutional Bank when some of the alleged breaches occurred.

Embattled Westpac chairman Mr Maxsted did not comment specifically about Mr Whitfield, but said no group executive knew about LitePay's failures.

"What we do know is that there’s no direct involvement of the CEO or any group executive in terms of knowing that there were issues in terms of the whole LitePay product,” he said.

Two of the 12 Westpac customers central to AUSTRAC's case were making payments suspected to be linked to child exploitation from November 2013, according the regulator's statement of claim.

Mr Whitfield did not answer subsequent calls.

He also did not respond to further questions about running the Westpac Institutional Bank for some of the time it failed to report 19.5 million International Funds Transfer Instructions (IFTIs) to AUSTRAC between November 2013 and September last year.

Mr Whitfield held a number of key roles at Westpac during his 30-year career including chief risk officer and group treasurer. He left the bank in 2015 for a two-year stint as the NSW Treasury Secretary, after missing out on becoming Westpac chief executive following Gail Kelly’s retirement.

Mr Whitfield has now been appointed the non-executive director of the Commonwealth Bank, chairs the risk committee and sits on the bank's audit and nominations committee. He has been flagged as a possible successor to CBA chairman Catherine Livingstone.

CBA refused to comment about Mr Whitfield.

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