Australian investigation hears evidence on banking misconduct

An enquiry into alleged misconduct within National Australia Bank has uncovered a number of revelations including impersonation of clients and falsification of forms, according to the Guardian.

National Australia Bank (NAB) and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) have been under the spotlight as evidence was being heard by the royal commission.

NAB top executives complained about having their bonuses reduced after employees under their supervision falsified client documents. One executive said the reduction sent the wrong message to NAB leaders.

A former financial adviser with ANZ was said to have recommended a $1.6m luxury marina apartment scheme to his clients, but siphoned off $100,000 when the scheme failed. ANZ did not compensate his clients.

In early 2017, an internal NAB review found 353 staff had falsely witnessed signing of client documents despite not being present at the meetings in which they were signed. The false witness was to support colleagues who had not completed financial forms properly.

NAB executive Andrew Hagger said falsification of documents was ‘common practice’ in NAB working culture, and staff perceived it to be helping clients by speeding up the process.

The commission also heard that Donna McKenna rejected advice from celebrity adviser Sam Henderson, who stars on a TV show. The advice would have cost or $500,000 in superannuation. McKenna claimed that a member of Henderson’s staff had impersonated her on phone calls in order to gather information about her super fund.

Australian horse racing stained by money laundering and race fixing — report

Much has changed since the first horses arrived in Australia, aboard a female convict ship, in January 1788. Today, Australians are among the most enthusiastic gamblers on horse racing in the world, spending £9.5bn in 2011.

But a joint TV and newspaper investigation claims criminal gangs are fixing races and using the ‘sport of kings’ to launder drug money. Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Four Corners programme teamed up with newspaper The Age to reveal a dark and even murderous side to the country’s gambling obsession.

‘Everyone loves a punt, including cashed-up criminals,’ said Four Corners presenter Kerry O’Brien.

And while allegations of criminality in the industry are not new, authorities have been slow to act in safeguarding an industry worth billions.

Inside Mail focuses on the racing industry in the state of Victoria. Best known in the UK as the home of Neighbours, Victoria and its capital Melbourne are notorious for gang warfare and crime.

Following the February 2011 murder of ‘colourful’ racing figure Les Samba in a well-heeled Melbourne suburb, police investigations started to pick away at horse racing’s criminal links. They found that despite a damning report and state government promises of tough action to stamp out corruption, the Sport of Kings still wears its carapace of slime.

Australian gangland figure Tony Mokbel, currently serving 30 years in prison for drug-related offences, is at the heart of the investigation. It is alleged that Mokbel paid tens of thousands of dollars to leading jockeys in exchange for tips.

‘If he’s got a pocketful of drug money,’ says reporter Nick McKenzie, ‘he’s got a better chance of getting an answer he wants to hear.’

Although jockeys are prohibited from passing on information, a handful of them are alleged to be manipulating races.

Beyond making a quick buck from race fixing, the investigation also alleges that some of Australia’s most notorious criminals are using racing to clean drug money. Four Corners claims Mokbel and his ‘Tracksuit Gang’ of goons cleaned up to £55m to funnel through luxury cars, homes and fillies by using others to place bets on his behalf, and by breaking down bets to avoid detection by Australia’s anti-money laundering agency.

Racing stewards, suspecting something was amiss, made repeated calls for help from Victoria’s police. Yet the authorities declined to investigate.

Despite a 2008 report confirming that ‘criminal activity in the racing sport is rampant’, not one of the bookmakers, trainers or jockeys alleged by the report to have ‘had improper associations with known criminals’ has faced serious repercussions over their dealings with Mokbel.

Jockeys, bookmakers and trainers are tightlipped and none would be interviewed for the documentary.

It was only when Victoria became mired in a dangerous tit-for-tat gangland killing spree that Mokbel and his links to thoroughbred racing corruption began to interest the police. But the response was slow and, Four Corners alleges, Australian authorities are yet to prove they can combat corruption in sport.

And with online betting booming, the investigation predicts that that criminals seeking to make money from the racing industry are far from flogging a dead horse.

Watch Four Corners’ ‘Inside Mail’ investigation here.

Written by   for The Bureau of Investigative Journalism


Asia-Pacific stock markets rebound on G8 comments

Stock markets in Asia and Australia recovered slightly on Monday as G8 members, meeting over the weekend, said they would do everything in their power to avoid another full blown financial crisis

The Nikkei 225 index in Japan gained 0.4%, after dropping sharply on Friday as a result of worries of Greece and the effect a prolonged European debt crisis could have on the global economy. Australian shares rose by 0.7% after hitting a six month low last week.

“The fate of Greece won’t become clear until the election, and markets will be swung around by comments from European leaders in the meantime, all of which makes it extremely difficult for investors to take any positions,” said Hirokazu Yuihama, a senior strategist at Daiwa Securities in Tokyo, told Reuters.

“Today’s move is merely a rebound from sharp losses on Friday and it doesn’t have momentum to rise strongly. The G8 outcome lacked the punch to give much incentive for markets.”

US president Barack Obama said that he had faith in Europe’s ability to tackle the sovereign debt crises, but added that Europe must now focus on jobs and growth, echoing the words of newly elected French president Francois Hollande.

Following the comments made at the G8 summit, the EU issued a statement saying that the focus needs to remain equally on austerity and growth.