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Australia’s NAB named in anti-money laundering probe
A National Australia Bank employee helps a customer using an automatic teller machine in Sydney. Photo: Reuters.

Regulator voices concerns over bank’s “potential serious and ongoing non-compliance” with customer identification and other procedures

National Australia Bank said on Monday that Australia’s financial crime regulator had identified serious concerns with the lender’s compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing (CTF) laws.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, known as AUSTRAC, expressed concerns over the bank’s “potential serious and ongoing non-compliance” with customer identification procedures, customer due diligence and compliance in a letter to the bank, NAB said.

AUSTRAC said the concerns have been referred to the agency’s enforcement team, which has initiated a formal investigation.

In the letter, AUSTRAC stated that it has not made any decision about whether or not enforcement action would be taken. AUSTRAC stated that, at this stage, it is not considering civil penalty proceedings.

AUSTRAC’s referral to its enforcement team follows regular engagement by NAB with AUSTRAC, both to report issues and keep the agency informed of progress in strengthening the group’s AML/CTF programme.

CONTINUED COOPERATION

Ross McEwan, NAB chief executive, said the bank would continue to cooperate with AUSTRAC in its investigations.

“NAB takes its financial crime obligations seriously,” he said. “We are very aware that we need to further improve our performance in relation to these matters. We have been working to improve and clearly have more to do.”

Since June 2017, NAB has invested about A$800 million as part of a multi-year programme to improve its financial crime and fraud controls and has more than 1,200 people dedicated to managing financial crime risks.

“NAB has an important role in monitoring and reporting suspicious activity and keeping Australia’s financial system, our bank and our customers safe,” McEwan said.

“It is a key priority for everyone at NAB to uplift our financial crime capabilities, minimise risk to customers and the bank, and improve operational performance.”

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.

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