Macquarie Group and Commonwealth Bank are the largest Australian financial institutions to be implicated in a global money laundering scandal, as shown in data released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) on Monday.
Findings from the ICIJ show large amounts of money laundering in numerous global financial institutions, with reports that close to US$167 million in suspicious transactions flowed to and from Australia.
On a global scale, the leaked bank reports show more than US$2 trillion in payments between 1999 and 2017 were flagged as suspicious across banks in over 170 countries. Notable figures include US$514 billion at JPMorgan Chase and US$1.3 trillion at Deutsche Bank.
Along with the ICIJ, BuzzFeed News and more than 100 other media organisations around the world together contributed to investigations for the past 16 months, where more than 2,000 suspicious activity reports were filed by global financial institutions to the United States’ Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
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BuzzFeed has not revealed its source for the leaked documents.
While banks are legally required to report suspicious activity, a surprising number of transfers continue to take place. But as shown in half of FinCEN reports, banks didn’t have information about at least one entity behind these transactions.
Acting Superintendent Daniel Burnicle at the Australian Federal Police says banks need to pay closer attention.
“It’s very easy to tick the boxes of your anti-money-laundering programs, but you need to start looking deeper in terms of the transactions that are taking place and whether further inquiries need to be made before you allow them to go forward or go through,” he said in a statement.
According to the ABC, large cash deposits made by individuals at Australian banks were treated flippantly by staff, when they should have been questioned and taken more seriously before the deposits were completed.
Spokespeople for both Commonwealth Bank and Macquarie Group confirmed their organisations regularly take steps to identify and prevent illegal financial activity, however, they declined to comment on any specifics regarding suspicious activity reports.
A Macquarie Group spokesperson said: “Macquarie is also a founding member of the Fintel Alliance, the public-private partnership sponsored by AUSTRAC bringing together intelligence and enforcement agencies and industry in the fight against financial crime.”
Macquarie Group and Commonwealth Bank are yet to issue official media statements.