Australia's Westpac refunds $46 million to new share buyers spooked by scandal

FILE PHOTO: A woman walks past an illuminated logo for Australia's Westpac Bank in Sydney, Australia, September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Steven Saphore

(Reuters) - Westpac Banking Corp WBC.AX said on Tuesday it had refunded A$68 million ($46.14 million) to shareholders who sought to withdraw from a share purchase plan after a lawsuit accused it of millions of money laundering breaches.

Australia’s second largest lender offered last month to refund people who bought new shares under the plan before the lawsuit. Some investors had said the offer was a move to fend off criticism about its transparency.

Australia’s financial crime watchdog AUSTRAC filed a civil lawsuit in November accusing Westpac of 23 million breaches of anti-money laundering laws, including payments between convicted child exploiters.

The company faces a showdown with investors at its annual meeting this week, seeking to hold back outrage over the money laundering scandal.

In a statement on Tuesday, Westpac said it had raised a total of A$770 million in the share sale, excluding the refunded sum. About 7% of the total eligible shareholders participated in the program, it said.

Reporting by Shreya Mariam Job in Bengaluru; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman