Sat, Mar 16, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Swedbank might have handled billions in suspect flows

Bloomberg

Sweden’s oldest bank might have handled considerably more in suspicious transactions tied to the Danske Bank A/S money laundering scandal than first reported.

Swedbank AB, which dominates financial markets in the Baltic region, was allegedly used for about 95 billion kronor (US$10.2 billion) in questionable transactions, according to Sweden’s main television broadcaster, SVT, which cited an internal review carried out by the bank last year.

The amount is more than double the level of suspicious flows reported by SVT less than a month ago.

It is not the first time that allegations of money laundering against a big Nordic bank have swelled.

Danske Bank, which is being investigated by the US Department of Justice and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, acknowledged last year that much of about US$230 billion that flowed through a tiny Estonian unit was suspicious in origin. That scandal started with reports of just US$200 million in questionable flows.

In a statement to the stock exchange yesterday, Swedbank said that it “takes its responsibilities to prevent and detect money laundering very seriously.”

The bank said the numbers mentioned in the SVT report is the total number of all transactions that emerged when Swedbank assessed flows between Danske Bank and Swedbank from 2007 to 2015 based on a number of risk indicators.

The review, initiated by the bank in the wake of the Danske scandal, included about 2,000 customers.

It is not a given that all the transactions were suspicious in nature, Swedbank said.

“In many cases, there was no need to act further, but in some cases we proceeded with, among other things, reports to the finance police,” it said.

“As we have repeated many times, we act on different signals,” Swedbank chief executive oficer Birgitte Bonnesen said in the statement. “Therefore, it was natural for us to act when the disclosures about Danske Bank came out on the market. That was the background to our analysis.”

In October last year, Bonnesen repeatedly assured the public that there were no indications of any suspicious flows at Swedbank tying the bank to the Danske scandal in Estonia.

After SVT last month claimed about 50 customers at Swedbank transferred about 40 billion kronor in suspicious funds between Swedbank and Danske from 2007 to 2015, she was forced to backtrack.

Swedbank has 900,000 private and 130,000 corporate customers in Estonia, where it has a market share of about 50 percent.

Of the millions of transactions Swedbank’s Estonian customers made every day last year, it received an average of 80 warning signs daily, the bank said yesterday.

After doing in-depth analyses of those transactions, Swedbank made about four notifications per day to the Estonian finance police, it said.

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