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Commonwealth Bank of Australia denies most new claims in money-laundering case

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Commonwealth Bank of Australia on Friday denied most of the 100 additional claims made against it in a major lawsuit by Australia's financial intelligence agency regarding breaches of anti-money laundering laws.

[BENGALURU] Commonwealth Bank of Australia on Friday denied most of the 100 additional claims made against it in a major lawsuit by Australia's financial intelligence agency regarding breaches of anti-money laundering laws.

Australia's biggest bank said in a statement it admitted "in part" to 11 of the claims filed in December by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) alleging systemic non-compliance with anti-money laundering laws.

Most of the more than 53,800 claims made by AUSTRAC involve alleged late filing of transaction reports, which the bank says were the result of a single systems-related error. It has vowed to "vigorously defend" the claims.

"CBA accepts that the failure to issue TTRs (threshold transaction reports) and SMRs (suspicious matter reports) in accordance with the Act has deprived law enforcement of some additional intelligence," the bank said in its amended court filing on Friday.

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CBA now admitted to 53,506 claims of late filing of transaction reports. It said however that these should be treated as one breach.

The maximum penalty for a single contravention is up to A$21 million (S$21.7 million), leaving CBA potentially exposed to billions of dollars in fines if they are treated separately.

It admitted in whole or in part to 56 breaches of customer due diligence requirements, but denied a further 53 allegations.

The AUSTRAC allegations include attempts to wire money to Beirut by a person who was convicted in 2005 of terrorism-related activities, which was not reported within 24 hours, as required.

CBA also admitted to an unspecified number of breaches of transaction monitoring rules between October 2012 and October 2015, but denied AUSTRAC's claim of 14 separate contraventions.

Of 230 claims concerning suspicious matter reporting, it said it had "made errors in 98 instances" although these also should not be treated as separate contraventions.

An AUSTRAC spokeswoman said the agency was unable to comment because the matter was before the courts.

In a separate case, CBA also said it denied all allegations regarding a shareholder class action commenced by Zonia Holdings against it in October 2017.

CBA shares were 0.4 per cent higher in morning trade, in line with the broader market.

REUTERS

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