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Record penalty for breaches of anti-money laundering laws

Media Release

Minister for Home Affairs
The Hon. Peter Dutton MP

Attorney-General
Minister for Industrial Relations
The Hon. Christian Porter MP

Joint media release

Westpac has today reached agreement with AUSTRAC – Australia's financial intelligence and regulatory agency – to pay a record $1.3 billion penalty for breaching anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing laws.

In an agreed statement of facts to be lodged with the Federal Court this morning, the bank has admitted to over 23 million breaches, including failing to report international funds transfers of more than $11 billion dollars.

The Court will now consider the appropriateness of the agreed penalty, which - if approved - would represent the largest ever civil penalty awarded in Australian history, almost doubling the previous record of $700 million paid by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) in 2018.

Attorney-General, Christian Porter, said the proposed penalty reflected the significant and systematic nature of Westpac's compliance failures.

"While noting the penalty is still subject to the Federal Court's approval, this should serve as a wake-up call to all financial institutions operating in Australia that the Government is serious about maintaining a strong financial system and won't tolerate serious non-compliance," Mr Porter said.

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said the agreement shows that the government is serious about ensuring the integrity of Australia's financial system while also protecting the community from crime.

"Banks have a responsibility to not let criminal activity go undetected and to protect Australians from serious and organised crime like child exploitation, drug trafficking and fraud," Mr Dutton said.

"They should be able to trust their banks and financial services they use daily to have strong systems in place to protect the community from crime. In this case, Westpac breached that trust and let their customers down, ultimately putting Australians at risk."

Both Ministers commended AUSTRAC for its collaboration with Australia's financial sector to educate and harden businesses against criminal exploitation.

AUSTRAC will continue to work closely with Westpac to ensure they have appropriate systems in place to identify, track and disrupt criminals and criminal networks.

Like the CBA settlement, the Westpac settlement is also non-tax deductible.