NAB investigated over potential ‘serious and ongoing’ financial crime breaches

National Australia Bank is facing allegations of potentially serious and ongoing non-compliance with anti-money laundering laws, with the financial crimes watchdog launching a formal investigation into whether to take legal action.

AUSTRAC wrote a letter to NAB on June 4 outlining serious concerns with NAB’s customer identification procedures, ongoing customer due diligence and compliance with anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws.

NAB has been accused of serious non-compliance issues with anti-money laundering laws. Credit:Pat Scala

AUSTRAC has now referred the matter to its enforcement team where it will determine whether any further action is taken, but the regulator pointed out it was not considering enforcement action at this point.

“AUSTRAC has a wide range of enforcement options available to it, including civil penalty orders, enforceable undertakings, infringement notices and remedial directions,” the regulator said.

The letter comes after “regular engagement” with NAB over “a long period of time”, with compliance problems flagged in its recent half-year financial report.

NAB chief Ross McEwan said NAB would cooperate with AUSTRAC’s investigations.

“NAB takes its financial crime obligations seriously. 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,” Mr McEwan said.

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

“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. That’s why we are so focused on getting the basics right every time to protect our customers and our bank.”

NAB said that it had invested about $800 million in improving financial crime and fraud controls since June 2017 and pointed to its team of more than 1200 dedicated employees managing these risks.

Big four rival Westpac was fined $1.3 billion, the largest fine in Australian corporate history, last September after reporting serious breaches of anti-money laundering laws to AUSTRAC.

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