Westpac boss to keep job, for now

Mercury (Hobart) - - BUSINESS -

WESTPAC chief Brian Hartzer has sur­vived an emer­gency board meet­ing amid the dirty money and child ex­ploita­tion scan­dal en­gulf­ing the bank.

But the ten­ure of the bank boss still hangs in the bal­ance as the Westpac board pledges an in­de­pen­dent re­view and the Prime Min­is­ter re­news his call for the bank to demon­strate “ac­count­abil­ity”.

The bank was ac­cused this week of breach­ing an­ti­money-laun­der­ing and counter-ter­ror­ism-fi­nanc­ing laws more than 23 mil­lion times.

This in­cludes fail­ing to prop­erly mon­i­tor and re­port trans­ac­tions that ap­pear to have funded child sex­ual abuse and the live we­b­cam stream­ing of child mo­lesta­tion in the Philip­pines.

The Westpac board, chaired by high-pro­file cor­po­rate fig­ure Lindsay Maxsted, held an emer­gency meet­ing yesterday to dis­sect the case lodged against it by the Aus­tralian Trans­ac­tion Re­ports and Anal­y­sis Cen­tre.

“The no­tion that any child has been hurt as a re­sult of any fail­ings by Westpac is deeply dis­tress­ing and we are truly sorry,” Mr Maxsted said in a state­ment af­ter the meet­ing.

Mr Maxsted said Westpac’s board, chief ex­ec­u­tive and man­age­ment team were “fully com­mit­ted to fix­ing these is­sues … so that this can never hap­pen again”.

But Mr Hartzer’s ten­ure re­mains un­cer­tain with Mr Maxsted say­ing the bank will ap­point “in­de­pen­dent ex­perts” to over­see a “re­view of ac­count­abil­ity” for the scan­dal.

“We will take ac­tions emerg­ing from that re­view,” Mr Maxsted said.

Shares in Westpac lost an­other 1.6 per cent yesterday in a three-day rout which has wiped $6.35 bil­lion from its mar­ket value.

As Westpac’s di­rec­tors gath­ered, Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son re­peated his call that while it was up to the board to de­ter­mine Mr Hartzer’s fu­ture, it needed to show the com­mu­nity that se­nior man­age­ment were be­ing held ac­count­able.

“They have got to take the calls that I think re­as­sure peo­ple’s con­fi­dence in the bank’s sys­tems and the pro­cesses they have, and that there is ac­count­abil­ity that is at work in these in­sti­tu­tions,” Mr Mor­ri­son told 3AW ra­dio.

Among the most shock­ing al­le­ga­tions lodged against Westpac is that the bank failed to tip off au­thor­i­ties to a cus­tomer it knew had been jailed for child ex­ploita­tion of­fences who was mak­ing fre­quent low-value pay­ments to the Philip­pines.

An­other cus­tomer who the bank did not prop­erly mon­i­tor made nu­mer­ous low-value pay­ments to a per­son in the Philip­pines who was later ar­rested for child traf­fick­ing, child ex­ploita­tion and of­fer­ing chil­dren for sex, Austrac had al­leged.

In all Austrac has iden­ti­fied 12 cus­tomers who do not ap­pear to have any fam­ily ties to the Philip­pines who made about 3000 pay­ments to­talling al­most $500,000 over sev­eral years.

It has passed the in­for­ma­tion on to po­lice. [email protected]

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