Home / World News / Perth Mint: Mark McGowan defends Austrac lapse on his watch at the besieged money mover

Perth Mint: Mark McGowan defends Austrac lapse on his watch at the besieged money mover

Mark McGowan has defended Perth Mint’s failure to register with the Federal financial crimes regulator on his ministerial watch, potentially exposing it to criminal prosecution.

Mr McGowan, who was the minister responsible for Perth Mint until April last year, said there was no fraud or impropriety involved in Perth Mint not having its international gold and silver storage operations registered with Austrac.

“It’s an administrative matter that wasn’t attended to,” he said.

But the Premier and Treasurer said he was not told until recently about Perth Mint’s Austrac bungle, which was discovered early in 2021 ahead of the March State election.

Austrac officials last week ordered a sweeping audit of Perth Mint processes and records amid suspicions it had breached criminal laws and provisions of transaction reporting laws.

Austrac is the Federal agency set up to monitor big money and valuable asset transfers as part of an international effort to fight tax evasion, money-laundering and terrorism finance.

Perth Mint’s registration failure during Mr McGowan’s 20-month ministerial tenure was uncovered by The West Australian after learning of the Austrac probe.

Mines Minister Bill Johnston, who took responsibility for Perth Mint in a post-election shuffle, says he was only told about the registration failure last week after media inquiries.

Perth Mint has refused to answer questions from The West Australian about how long it was not registered under Federal laws that make it a criminal offence to provide remittance services without registration.

It has only told The West Australian it identified in early 2021 that it was moving money “without having an up-to-date remittance service provider registration, as required by Austrac”.

Shadow mines minister Shane Love said he had seen an internal Perth Mint email indicating it was being questioned by Austrac as early as June last year over customer information going back to 2014.

Mr Love said Mr McGowan and Mr Johnston should have been told about the registration failure.

But he said Mr Johnston had palmed off his parliamentary questions about Perth Mint’s problems by pointing to Austrac and a $60 million-plus battle to install a modern computer system.

Mr McGowan said the board of Perth Mint owner Gold Corp was “very capable”.

“There’s been some changes to personnel in the management of the mint and I’m very confident they’ll have the matters under control,” he said.

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