Former Westpac exec plays down role in laundering scandal


AUSTRAC has not singled out individual executives responsible for the scandal and the bank has since launched an independent review to figure out who is to blame.

Responsibility for the international fund transfer service at the centre of the child exploitation allegations, LitePay, and botched International Funds Transfer Instructions (IFTIs) reporting system rests with Westpac’s Institutional Bank division. 

AUSTRAC said in its concise statement lodged in the Federal Court last Wednesday that it warned Westpac of “heightened child exploitation risks” from at least 2013 and that the bank did not fix the issue until June 2018.

Mr Whitfield distanced himself from the scandal when asked about LitePay by the Sydney Morning Herald and Age.

“I’m not aware of the LitePay product so I think that may have come well after my time,” he said. “The LitePay product I don’t believe was institutional substantially until after I left the organisation, which was four-and-a-half years ago.”

LitePay, which has been cancelled as a response to the scandal, was launched in 2016 as a lower cost option for low-value payments. LitePay enabled customers to transfer a maximum of $3000 per day to countries including the Philippines for a fee ranging from $5 to $8.

While Mr Whitfield was not working at Westpac at the time Litepay was launched, he was in charge of the Westpac Institutional Bank when some of the alleged breaches occurred.

Embattled Westpac chairman Mr Maxsted did not comment specifically about Mr Whitfield, but said no group executive knew about LitePay’s failures.

“What we do know is that there’s no direct involvement of the CEO or any group executive in terms of knowing that there were issues in terms of the whole LitePay product,” he said.

Two of the 12 Westpac customers central to AUSTRAC’s case were making payments suspected to be linked to child exploitation from November 2013, according the regulator’s statement of claim.

Mr Whitfield did not answer subsequent calls.

He also did not respond to further questions about running the Westpac Institutional Bank for some of the time it failed to report 19.5 million International Funds Transfer Instructions (IFTIs) to AUSTRAC between November 2013 and September last year.

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Mr Whitfield held a number of key roles at Westpac during his 30-year career including chief risk officer and group treasurer. He left the bank in 2015 for a two-year stint as the NSW Treasury Secretary, after missing out on becoming Westpac chief executive following Gail Kelly’s retirement.

Mr Whitfield has now been appointed the non-executive director of the Commonwealth Bank, chairs the risk committee and sits on the bank’s audit and nominations committee. He has been flagged as a possible successor to CBA chairman Catherine Livingstone.

CBA refused to comment about Mr Whitfield.

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