Westpac refunds $46 million to shareholders, faces money laundering scandal

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Westpac Banking Corp refunded A$68 million ($46.14 million) to shareholders who wanted to withdraw their shares on a purchase plan after the bank faced a lawsuit accusing it of laundering millions.

Westpac, Australia’s second biggest lender, offered refunds to people who bought new shares under the plan even before the lawsuit was filed. Investors have taken the move as the bank’s measure to avoid criticism of its transparency.

AUSTRAC filed a civil lawsuit against Westpac in November on grounds of 23 million breaches of anti-money laundering laws, including payments of transactions with convicted child exploiters. AUSTRAC is the financial crime watchdog of Australia.

Westpac is set to have a face-off with investors at the bank’s annual meeting this week, as it seeks to control public outrage over the money laundering scandal.

Westpac released a statement on Tuesday saying it had raised A$770 million in the share sale, excluding refunds to investors.  Seven percent of eligible shareholders participated in the program.

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