Australia probes PayPal amid child abuse payment fears

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Sep 24 2019 02:57 PM | Updated as of Sep 25 2019 02:43 PM

The PayPal app logo seen on a mobile phone in this illustration photo October 16, 2017. Thomas White, Reuters

SYDNEY - (UPDATE) Australia's financial regulator on Tuesday ordered an investigation into global money transfer platform PayPal, amid concerns it may be being misused by sex offenders to buy child abuse material from Asia.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) demanded an external auditor investigate "ongoing concerns" about breaches of the country's anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing laws.

Announcing the appointment in a statement Tuesday, AUSTRAC said it was working with its partners to "combat serious crimes such as child sex exploitation" using funds transfer information reported by the financial services sector.

"Online child abuse material can be ordered from Australia to areas such as the Philippines in quite often small amounts that are repeated often, and PayPal, unfortunately, is one of the areas that they can use to do that," AUSTRAC CEO Nicole Rose told the ABC.

"That's why we want to get the auditor in to really (determine) what sort of risks there have been and continue to be with PayPal systems or their reporting regime."

A PayPal Australia spokesperson said the review was prompted when the company realized it had not been fully reporting international payments in line with obligations.

"These reporting obligations are important protections in the international fight against financial crime and the misuse of payment platforms, which PayPal takes very seriously," they said in a statement. 

The company clarified that the audit was not in response to the discovery of child sex exploitation connections.

"There has been reporting today suggesting the reason the audit of PayPal’s Australian business was instigated was in response to the discovery of child sex exploitation connections. This is not correct," PayPal said in a statement.

"Since PayPal’s establishment as an independent company in 2015, we have made and continue to make significant investments in our compliance programs, including our anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing programs. PayPal has a long track record working with global law enforcement agencies to proactively combat child exploitation," PayPal added.

An audit report must be compiled within 120 days and will be used to determine whether the regulator takes any further action against the digital payments platform.

- Updated with statement from PayPal