Bell Potter faces AUSTRAC probe over anti-money laundering compliance

The financial crimes watchdog has ordered external auditors to look into Australian stockbroking group Bell Potter over potential breaches of anti-money laundering laws, having found compliance weaknesses that could help criminals to use its services.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) has ordered the appointment of an external auditor to three entities within the Bell Financial Group – Bell Potter Securities, Bell Potter Capital and Third Party Platform.

Bell Potter is being probed by the financial crimes watchdog AUSTRAC.

Bell Financial Group will cover the costs of the auditor, which will report back to AUSTRAC after 180 days and determine whether any further regulatory action will have to be taken, which could include fines, remediation or legal action.

The auditor will assess the group’s compliance with anti-money laundering laws after AUSTRAC identified weaknesses in the broker’s approach to customer due diligence, suspicious matter reporting and maintenance of records.

AUSTRAC has become a feared regulator after Westpac’s failure to file suspicious matter reports correctly saw it fined $1.3 billion in 2020, the largest civil penalty in Australian history.

NAB’s failures with customer due diligence have also attracted AUSTRAC’s attention after the bank failed to properly identify customers and maintain records, potentially opening the door to criminal exploitation.

The Bell Potter group provides services around Australia including stockbroking, foreign exchange, loans, investment and financial advisory services.

AUSTRAC chief executive Nicole Rose said Australian financial services firms have a responsibility to ensure they devote the necessary resources to comply with the law.

“We will continue to work closely with Bell Financial Group to address any compliance concerns, and take action where any businesses that we regulate are failing to appropriately protect themselves and Australia’s financial system from criminal activity,” Ms Rose said.

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