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AUSTRAC CEO fires up over Westpac claims

Lachlan Maddock
— 1 minute read

AUSTRAC CEO Nicole Rose has hit back against allegations the agency sat on suspicious matter reports, labelling them “abhorrent”.

Appearing before the Senate estimates legal and constitutional affairs legislation committee, Ms Rose told ministers that she was “appalled” by a Daily Telegraph article that alleged the agency failed to refer suspicious matter reports to authorities for more than a year after Westpac provided them. 

“I don’t think I’ve got time to talk about all the errors in those articles here,” Ms Rose said.

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“A couple of things concern me, most importantly around the reputation of AUSTRAC – that AUSTRAC may have damaged in some way, shape or form investigations into child sexual abuse. I think that is appalling and abhorrent.”

Ms Rose said that AUSTRAC information was made to partner agencies within 24 hours and to the police within a three-to-four-day period and that any discrepancies were a result of the way investigations were structured.

“As in many civil and criminal matters, there can be parallel tracks of work done where criminality is disputed at the same time an investigation goes on,” Ms Rose said. 

“And that is what has happened in this case.”

But Ms Rose was unable to state exactly when the reports were given to AUSTRAC and how long it took for them to be referred to the AFP, saying that she didn’t know and would have to take the question on notice. Investor Daily’s request for further information from AUSTRAC was unable to be met before deadline. 

The allegations have drawn ire from the upper echelons of politics. Speaking to ABC’s Insiders, Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton called the comments a “hatchet job”.

“Nicole has taken AUSTRAC at an unprecedented level of success not only with the banks, but many of the criminal syndicates that they’re now working on with the ACIC and the Australian Federal Police and their state counterparts as well,” Mr Dutton said. 

“The personal attacks on Nicole Rose at a time when she’s going after some pretty big fish, I think is pretty outrageous. I can tell you my experience with Nicole Rose is she’s one of the most exceptional public servants that we have in the Commonwealth.”

Ms Rose also told Senate estimates that AUSTRAC and Westpac were “part way through mediation”. Another case management hearing was scheduled for 2 March, but Investor Daily understands that hearing has now been postponed.

 

AUSTRAC CEO fires up over Westpac claims
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