Estonian Companies Launder Hundreds of Millions of Russian Money Each Year, Says Eesti Ekspress ({{commentsTotal}})

Weekly Eesti Ekspress said Estonian companies play a role in a scheme used by Russian businessmen and officials: funds are transferred to Estonia and taken back to Russia in cash. 

Hundreds of millions of euros make the trip each year. The then-interior minister, Ken-Marti Vaher, said in 2012 that 525 million euros moved in such a way in 2008, with that sum dropping to close to 200 the next year and 350 million in both 2010 and 2011. These sums were declared to the state, the weekly reported.

The head of the Police's Financial Intelligence Unit, Aivar Paul, said the method is not always illegal, as withdrawing euros is cheaper in Estonia than in Russia, with costs in Russia quoted at around 5 percent of the sum, 2-3 times higher than here.

The scheme usually involves a number of other countries besides Estonia, with funds being transferred from Russia to other EU states first, such as Cyprus or Latvia, where it is more expensive to turn into cash.

Many Estonian financial service providers are said to thrive on the scheme, with Eesti Ekspress estimating that AS Tavid, more known as a currency exchange service provider, charges 0.17 percent of the sum up front, while SEB and Swedbank charge 0.4 to 0.5 percent.