Lawyer calls for end to Danske employees trial after mass leak

The former branch of Danske Bank, on Narva mnt in central Tallinn, closed in 2019.
The former branch of Danske Bank, on Narva mnt in central Tallinn, closed in 2019. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Information leaked to the media in both Estonia and Italy has rendered moving forward with the money laundering case connected with Danske Bank's now-defunct Estonian branch moribund, a defense lawyer says.

Martin Hirvoja, attorney for two Danske Bank officials alleged to have been complicit in the mass-scale money laundering scheme which broke in the media last year, says he had presented an application to the state prosecution to terminate criminal proceedings on Thursday.

"Today, we filed a request with the Office of the Prosecutor General for the termination of the criminal proceeding, and simultaneously a report of a criminal offense for a criminal proceeding to be opened to identify the persons who illegally leaked files containing information of the pretrial investigation of the criminal case to Italian media publication l'Espresso," Hirvoja said.

Between September 22 and October 2, materials from the Danske pretrial investigation were published in very large amounts in several Estonian media publications as well as the Italian one. It appears from the newspaper articles published that the entire criminal file may have been leaked.

Hirvoja said: "The trial has been effectively taken to the media against the will of the persons involved, and illegally, which is why also the defense is compelled, as distinct from usual practice and in an exceptional manner, to handle the problem concerning the criminal proceeding as a matter of expedience."

Earlier leaks, according to existing knowledge, had concerned individual fragments or documents, he added. 

Hirvoja's law firm, Magnusson, also finds that the leak makes it no possible to fulfill the requirements applicable to an adversarial judicial procedure.

The application pointed out that it is a fundamental principle of an adversarial procedure that the judge handling the case must not see the file of the pretrial investigation prior to a court sitting.

Whether a piece of evidence gathered by the prosecutor's office in the pretrial investigation is appropriate and acceptable in court under law is decided only in the course of examination by the court, and in most cases separately, for each individual piece of evidence. 

"In this case, the criminal file has been made available to all Estonian judges in county courts, district courts and in the Supreme Court," Hirvoja explained.

The attorney's justification claims that there is no judge left in the land who could handle the Danske criminal case in accordance with the requirements of the law. 

Furthermore, it is no longer possible to ensure compliance with the requirement of the law that witnesses, before giving testimony in court, must not know about the testimony given by other witnesses, nor the other documents examined in court, Hirvoja said.

The money laundering case against Danske Bank also linked to Swedbank and SEB, with as much as over €200 billion in illicit funds, mostly of Russian origin, thought to have passed the banks in the period of 2007-2015.

Danske Bank ceased its activities in Estonia in the fall of 2019 after the Financial Supervision Authority ordered the bank to stop operations there earlier the same year.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste, Andrew Whyte

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