Australian Bank “Making the Use of Cash a Criminal Offense”: Poker Player Crispin Rovere

Posted on: July 18, 2023, 07:29h. 

Last updated on: July 18, 2023, 07:29h.

Crispin Rovere, an Australian poker player and author, presents a bleak outlook on the future of banking. Following a recent conflict with Westpac bank, he argues that financial institutions are beginning to automatically vilify their customers and criminalize the use of cash.

A Westpac sign hangs over the entrance of one of the bank's branches
A Westpac sign hangs over the entrance of one of the bank’s branches. An Australian poker player has called out the bank for freezing his accounts. (Image: News Hub)

The scathing critique of Westpac’s operational integrity stems from what Rovere describes as an outrageous response by the bank. He expresses disbelief that such a situation could occur.

In a message shared on various social media platforms, including Twitter, he publicly criticizes the bank for freezing his accounts without any prior notice. When he sought an explanation from the bank’s fraud department, they declined to provide a satisfactory reason. Rovere is concerned that this “totalitarian” attitude could permeate the entire financial industry.

Westpac, Rovere in Standoff

Rovere explains that he deposited poker winnings into his Westpac account, emphasizing that the amount was significantly below the $10,000 threshold set by financial regulators for suspicious transactions.

Shortly after, when Rovere attempted to use his bank card to pay a hotel bill, it was declined. When he tried to check his balance online, he discovered that he had no access to his accounts.

This led him to contact Westpac to inquire about the situation. It was then that he learned his accounts had been frozen by the bank’s fraud department due to a “suspicious” deposit.

To lift the freeze, the bank representative informed Rovere that he needed to provide evidence of the source of the funds. However, when he requested the representative’s name or written confirmation of the request, it was refused.

The bank’s only justification for flagging the account was that the deposit was made in a different state from where Rovere opened it. In other words, Westpac does not believe that its verified customers should have the freedom to make deposits at any of its branches.

Rovere refused to provide the information Westpac requested, as the amount was “very modest” and did not come close to the threshold for suspicious transactions. Instead, he chose to expose the bank’s “sickening and outrageous” response on social media.

In his message, he highlights how Westpac has taken on the role of “judge” in its treatment of customers, presuming guilt before innocence is proven. He warns that cash usage is now “stigmatized” and could soon be regarded as “criminal.”

Rovere cautions, “Eventually, the simple act of valuing personal privacy will be seen as seditious.”

Not Alone

Westpac’s actions may be an attempt to safeguard their assets, even if they did not adhere to standard procedures in doing so. In 2020, the Australian Transaction Reporting and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) fined the bank AUD1.3 billion (US$872.17 million) for breaching anti-money laundering protocols, which may have left them feeling vulnerable.

Rovere’s post prompted an outpouring of comments from others who have experienced similar issues with Westpac. One individual described being unable to withdraw funds from a legal cryptocurrency exchange, while another accused the bank of theft.

A third response recounted a situation in which the poster and their family attempted to deposit spare change they had accumulated over the year. However, the bank demanded proof of the source of the funds and froze their business account. While the exact amount was not specified, it is unlikely to have approached $10,000.

Another comment raised a concerning question that most governments would be pleased to see answered affirmatively: “Is this a push for electronic, controllable currency only?”

Fortunately, there was a resolution for Rovere. Westpac unfroze his accounts on the same day, allowing him to return to normalcy.

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