How millions in cash was deposited into CBA bank accounts in Australia and then disappeared offshore

Elizabeth street, Sydney. Steve Christo/Corbis via Getty Images

The Commonwealth Bank (CBA) is in court over suspicious cash deposits totalling hundreds of millions of dollars.

The alleged breaches of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF) Act relate to combined cash deposits of $624.7 million.

The key piece of machinery which allegedly allowed crime syndicated to shift profits from drugs to offshore accounts deals are ATMs.

These machines can take up to 200 notes — a maximum of $20,000 at a time — as a deposit. There is no limit to the number of transactions a customer can do in a day, but cash can only be deposited in a Commonwealth account.

The Commonwealth has a helpful video clip on Youtube showing how easy, and fast, it is to make a deposit using an ATM.

Cash banking transactions of $10,000 or more must be reported to Australian authorities. The case against the Commonwealth centres around tens of thousands of alleged breaches of this requirement.

Word got around when the CBA introduced this facility at ATMs in 2012, with the number and size of cash deposits steadily increasing.

In the first six months to November 2012, $89.1 million was deposited through ATMs. In the six months to June 2016, cash deposits grew to $5.81 billion and about $1 billion a month since then.

According to papers filed in the Federal Court today, one crime syndicate deposited $20.5 million between late 2014 and August 2015 into 30 accounts, 29 of them with fake names. Most of the deposits were then quickly transferred to offshore accounts.

The CBA in April picked up that something was suspicious in 16 of these accounts but $9.1 million still made it to accounts in Hong Kong.

The Australian Federal Police moved in and found a pattern. The accounts were being setup by foreign nationals here on holiday visas.

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