Australia's Westpac makes first court appearance for money-laundering hearing

FILOE PHOTO: A pedestrian looks at his phone as he walks past a logo for Australia's Westpac Banking Corp located outside a branch in central Sydney, Australia, November 5, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray

(Reuters) - Australia's No.2 bank Westpac Banking Corp WBC.AX on Monday made its first court appearance for a case where it is accused of 23 million alleged breaches of anti-money laundering laws, and said the next hearing was scheduled for late-February.

A Federal Court had adjourned proceedings on the case, brought about by regulator AUSTRAC, to be further listed for a hearing in late February or early March next year, the lender said in a statement to the Australian stock exchange.

AUSTRAC commenced proceedings against the lender on Nov. 20 for breaches of anti-money laundering laws, saying the banking giant ignored red flags and for years enabled payments from convicted child sex offenders and “high risk” countries.

“Westpac has made a number of changes to its transaction monitoring and is continuing to review its processes and report to AUSTRAC suspicious matters that are identified,” it said.

Westpac last month became the third of the country’s top four banks to lose its top executive in the past 18 months in the midst of various financial scandals, with chief executive Brian Hartzer resigning amid intense pressure to step down.

Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru, editing by Louise Heavens