Financial crime watchdog orders external auditor to probe Bell Potter

Financial crime watchdog orders external auditor to probe Bell Potter

Australia’s financial crime authority AUSTRAC has ordered Bell Financial Group (ASX: BFG) to appoint an external auditor after identifying a number of compliance concerns for three of its subsidiaries.

The government’s anti-money laundering watchdog is targeting Bell Potter Securities Limited, Bell Potter Capital Limited and Third Party Platform Pty Ltd.

The move by AUSTRAC was revealed today as Bell announced its full-year results for calendar 2021, reporting a 5.5 per cent drop in net profit to $44.1 million.

Bell Financial operates across 13 offices in Australia. It also has operations in New York, London, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur where the group provides stockbroking, foreign exchange, loans, investment and financial advisory services.

The external auditor, due to report within 180 days of the appointment, is looking into Bell’s internal programs designed to detect money laundering and terrorism financing activities by clients.

The investigation relates to the group’s obligations to adhere to AUSTRAC’s prescribed Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF) program.

The auditor will probe Bell’s requirement to have an ongoing customer due diligence program, the group’s suspicious matter reporting obligations and the maintenance of enrolment details within required timeframes.

Bell Financial this morning confirmed to the ASX the appointment of the external auditor.

“We appreciate the opportunity to work constructively with AUSTRAC and the external auditor to ensure that our AML/CTF program is robust and appropriate,” says the company.

The auditor’s appointment will be at the company’s expense. The news has not fazed investors with Bell Financial Group’s shares edging slightly lower in line with the latest profit result.

AUSTRAC says the integrity of the reporting regime in place is essential to protect businesses, the financial system and the Australian community from criminal threats.

 “Australian financial services businesses have a responsibility to ensure they devote the necessary resources and processes to comply with their AML/CTF obligations under the law," says AUSTRAC CEO Nicole Rose.

“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.”

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