Philippine bank probes transfers in Aussie money-laundering scandal

Westpac Chief Executive Brian Hartzer resigned after accusations the Australian No 2 bank committed 23 million breaches. (AP pic)

MANILA: Bank of the Philippine Islands has started its own probe into fund transfers made using a Westpac Banking Corp service blamed for Australia’s worst-ever money laundering breach.

The Ayala Corp-owned bank started investigating transactions made through LitePay, a low-cost fund transfer system Westpac launched in 2016, after violations came to light in late November, BPI spokesman Owen Cammayo said.

BPI, the local remittance partner of LitePay, immediately terminated the arrangement and reported the matter to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and Westpac, he said.

Cammayo declined to specify the focus of the probe and said the bank could have “limited visibility” on where the money likely ended up.

“While we are the remittance partner, the destination banks may not be BPI,” he said by phone.

LitePay is at the centre of the controversy engulfing Sydney-based Westpac, which is alleged to have breached money-laundering laws more than 23 million times.

Its top executive resigned after Australian authorities said the lender failed to check customers who repeatedly made small transfers to Southeast Asian countries including the Philippines – a red flag for possible child exploitation.

LitePay was set up to target Filipinos working in Australia who make hundreds of thousands of transfers back home each year, according to a BPI statement issued in 2016.

It allowed users to send money from a Westpac account online to a BPI account, from which it could then be moved to any bank in the Philippines.