Bank says ‘mistakes can be made’

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The Commonwealth Bank is being accused of 53,700 breaches of money laundering and terror financing laws.

Customers use a Commonwealth Bank ATM in Brisbane. The Commonwealth Bank has been accused of a systemic failure to comply with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws. Picture: Dan Peled/AAP

THE Commonwealth Bank of Australia boss has warned people against jumping to conclusions after it was accused of more than 53,000 breaches of money laundering and terrorism financing laws.

“I understand there is very little goodwill for banks in general, and for CBA in particular, so when something like this happens people jump to conclusions,” Ian Narev told The Australian in an article published on Monday.

The federal government’s financial intelligence unit AUSTRAC last week launched civil proceedings in the Federal Court against CBA. It’s accused the bank of systemic failure to comply with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws.

CBA said in a statement on Monday it was taking AUSTRAC’s allegations seriously and admitted “mistakes can be made”. “In an organisation as large as Commonwealth Bank, mistakes can be made. We know that because we are a big organisation, these mistakes can have significant impact,” it said.

It pointed to a coding error in its Intelligent Deposit Machines between 2012 and 2015, when it was discovered. “The vast majority of the reporting failures alleged in the (AUSTRAC) statement of claim relate specifically to this coding error,” it said.

CBA releases its full year results on Wednesday.

On Friday its shares closed down 3.9 per cent, wiping about $5.5 billion off its market value.

CBA could face a maximum penalty of $18 million for each of the 53,700 contraventions, if found guilty.

The case is already making waves in Federal Parliament.

South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon on Sunday floated introducing legislation to apply criminal sanctions, including jail terms, to the executives of banks “who systemically fail to abide by the rules” on money laundering and terror financing.



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