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Westpac Shares Plunge On Probe Into Money Laundering Claim

Leading Australian bank Westpac faces the prospect of a new investigation into its alleged money laundering and child exploitation scandal, according to the AAP news service.

The new investigation comes as Westpac leaders scramble to salvage the bank’s reputation and stem an enormous plunge in its share price.

Westpac has lost as much as $8.06 billion from its market capitalisation since financial crime watchdog Austrac announced last week it is taking the bank to court over an alleged 23 million breaches of money laundering laws.

Alleged breaches include claims that – knowingly or not – the bank facilitated payments that were linked with child trafficking and sex offences.

Westpac on Sunday released a statement outlining its response plan to Austrac’s legal action, with chairman Lindsay Maxsted saying the bank is “determined to urgently fix (the) issues”.

Maxsted added: “We accept that we have fallen short of both our own and regulators’ standards and are determined to get all the facts and assess accountability.”

Westpac has outlined a plan that includes priority screening to hopefully identify possible child exploitation cases; an investment of $25 million to improve cross-border data sharing; and $10 million a year funding for bodies including the International Justice Mission and for SaferKidsPH.

In Parliament yesterday Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, pictured, joined the fray, accusing Westpac of giving a “free pass” to paedophiles.“There is a price to pay for that and that price will be paid and we have been very clear about it,” Dutton said in answer to a question.

He added: “We will make sure through Austrac and the other entities within the Home Affairs portfolio that people who commit those egregious offences or breaches of the law will pay a serious price.”

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