Jay Weatherill, the South Australian Premier launched a surprising attack against the country’s largest banks calling them money launderers and accused them of being partners with criminal and terrorist groups.
Speaking at a renewable energy event held in Adelaide earlier this week, Weatherill said that he would continue pushing his controversial proposal to introduce state bank taxes despite the fact that it was bound to be defeated in the state’s legislative council.
In a statement Weatherill said
Are we seriously going to be lectured by the banks? The money launderers to organised crime and terrorist groups, are we seriously going to be getting lectures from them?
He pointed out to Commonwealth Bank’s recent announcement of a net profit of A$9.9 billion for the previous fiscal year and said that if the new levy took A$20 million of it, there would be only marginal impact, indicating that the bank could afford the payout.
The Premier’s comments come against the backdrop of Australia’s financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC initiating action against the Commonwealth Bank (CBA) for failing to comply with rules related to money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing. The agency said that it had found 53,700 alleged instances of money laundering laws being flouted, totaling to around A$77 million ($61 million).
Most of these breaches involve the bank’s intelligent deposit machines or IDMs which allow deposits via cash or checks. AUSTRAC said that the usage of CBA’s IDMs have seen a massive jump, with deposits surging to A$5.8 billion ($4.6 billion) in the six months ending June 2016.
AUSTRAC believes that these machines were used by criminal groups to bypass strict laws relating to money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing. It has charged the bank with failure to take action even after suspected transactions were brought to its notice.
Opposition Leader Steven Marshall criticized the Premier’s comments regarding private banks saying that the premier was attacking the private sector which provided jobs to the people of South Australia. Marshall has also vowed to block the bank tax bill when it is introduced to the legislative house.The state Lower House is expected to hold a debate on the same before the end of this week.
Marshall said that the bill would hinder investments and job growth in the state which was why a majority of the state’s residents were against it. He noted that most of the citizens believe that the banks would pass the tax onto customers rather than absorbing it. A recent poll among the state’s small business owners found that nearly 65 percent opposed the proposed tax bill.