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Queen Street forex operator fined $5.3m for failure to fulfill anti-laundering regulations

A Queen St money-changer and money remitter has been fined $5.3 million after the High Court at Auckland heard it "failed abysmally" to meet regulations intended to prevent money-laundering.

The Department of Internal Affairs, which brought the uncontested case against Ping An Finance before the High Court, alleged the company failed to identify its customers, monitor transactions, keep records or report suspicious transactions to authorities.

The transactions in question, 1588 over the 2014 calendar year, amounted to $105.4m. 173 of the transactions presented to the court were found to have "contained several indications of suspicious transactions" that would have required mandatory reporting.

Justice Kit Toogood ruled there had been "serious, systemic deficiencies in complying with a multiplicity of obligations under the Act" resulting in "widespread contraventions across several key areas which were not isolated or infrequent".

Toogood ordered Ping An to pay a total of $5.29m in fines, and granted an injunction against the company's director, Xiolan Xiao, from carrying out any further financial activity.

The finding represents a test case for the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act as it represents the first determination by the court of financial penalties for breaches.

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