SYDNEY: Two of Australia’s most senior financial officials called into question the integrity of the country’s top banks on Friday, saying they risked losing public trust in the wake of unprecedented money-laundering and terror financing allegations. The latest scandal to rock Australia’s highly profitable “Big Four” banks is potentially the worst, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia accused by the financial intelligence agency of allowing criminals to launder millions of dollars.
Australia’s biggest mortgage lender has blamed a software coding error and vowed to fight the allegations in court, but on Friday its problems deepened when the corporate regulator expressed fresh concerns about CBA’s management and said it was opening a separate investigation. Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) Chairman Greg Medcraft complained that CBA executives had not informed him of the compliances problems during a meeting he held with them two days before they were made public last week. “This is the largest company in the country and I think Australians would have expected better,” Medcraft said. The allegations leveled in court by financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC, accusing CBA of 53,700 breaches of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism laws, threatened to undermine “global trust” in Australia’s financial sector, he said.