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Philippine authorities probe alleged Westpac child exploitation scandal

Philippines' regulators and government agencies are investigating allegations that payments linked to child exploitation were sent to the Southeast Asian country through Westpac Banking Corp.'s LitePay payments channel, The Australian reported.

The Philippines' Anti-Money Laundering Council declined to disclose details of its probe but said it was working "closely with regional financial intelligence units, law enforcement agencies, and other partners to deal with serious issues." Further, Philippines Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the country's interagency council against trafficking was working closely with the AMLC and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, or AUSTRAC, to investigate the matter further.

In its lawsuit against Westpac, AUSTRAC had claimed the bank ought to have been aware that A$500,000 worth of funds transferred by 12 individuals through its LitePay service to individuals in the Philippines were probably linked to child exploitation.

Once sufficient evidence is gathered, a case could be referred to the Philippines' National Bureau of Investigation, said Guevarra.

The report came after a spokesman for Bank of the Philippine Islands, the local remittance partner of Westpac's LitePay, reportedly said the bank has started conducting its own probe into fund transfers made through the payment channel.