Swedish bank suspected of money laundering in Estonia

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Swedish lender Swedbank said Thursday it’s been informed by Estonian authorities that its local subsidiary is suspected of money laundering in the Baltic country from 2014-2016.

The Stockholm-based bank said in a statement that “the criminal investigation originates from the work of the Estonian Financial Supervisory Authority” that investigated operations of the bank’s Estonian subsidiary, Swedbank AS, in 2019.

Swedbank is heavily exposed to the Baltic markets through subsidiaries in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

In March 2020, the Estonian financial watchdog issued a report of its findings regarding shortcomings in the anti-money laundering work of Swedbank AS. The unit has now been informed of the money laundering suspicion by Estonian authorities, Swedbank said.

“Swedbank AS will review and analyze the suspicion in detail and continue the cooperation with the authority to resolve the historical matter,” Swedbank said, adding that the maximum fine for the suspected crime is 16 million euros ($18 million).

Swedbank serves tens of thousands of private and corporate customers in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania through dozens of branches, and ranks among the top three banks in each country.

In the past years, the Baltic countries have been exposed to several financial scandals, particularly in Estonia and Latvia. It has been confirmed there that clients from Russia and former Soviet states misused the local banking sectors for suspicious transactions and money laundering.

The biggest banking scandal in the region surfaced in 2017-2018, when it became known that around €200 billion ($220 billion) of suspicious money transactions had flowed from Estonian, Russian, Latvian and other sources through the Estonian branch of Denmark’s Danske Bank from 2007 to 2015.

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