Business

Australia’s Westpac CEO quits over money laundering scandal

SYDNEY : The chief executive of Australia's Westpac Banking Corp stepped down yesterday over a money laundering scandal, just a day after he told staff it was "not a major issue" and that he intended to stay on.

Mr Brian Hartzer's departure, effective from Dec 2, made Westpac the third of the country's top four banks to lose its top executive in the past 18 months.

Regulator Austrac last week launched legal action accusing Westpac of enabling 23 million payments in breach of anti-money laundering laws, including the facilitation of offshore payments relating to child exploitation.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was among those calling for the bank's board to consider the future of its executives, but chairman Lindsay Maxsted had said over the weekend that a change at the top would be destabilising for the bank.

That all changed yesterday, when Mr Maxsted announced both Mr Hartzer's exit and his own retirement in the first half of next year.

Mr Hartzer, 52, had told staff on Monday that the crisis was "not an Enron or Lehman Brothers", according to The Australian newspaper. He was quoted as saying that "for people in mainstream Australia going about their daily lives, this is not a major issue so we don't need to overcook this". - REUTERS

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