Denmark drops money laundering charges against six Danske Bank suspects

Danske Bank's Tallinn office prior to its full closure in late 2019.
Danske Bank's Tallinn office prior to its full closure in late 2019. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Denmark's prosecutor's office says it is not charging six former Danske Bank employees with money laundering activities. Danske's Estonian branch was forced to close in 2019 after large scale flows of potentially illicit funds were thought to have passed through the bank over a period of several years.

The six individuals – nine had been charged – had been listed as suspects for over 18 months in the Danske Estonia case, BNS reports, and DR, the public broadcaster in Denmark, reported the story. 

Acting public prosecutor in Denmark Per Fiig told DR News that: "We have not found that negligence has been demonstrated that can be characterized as gross, and therefore there will be no basis for prosecution for having violated the Money Laundering Act." 

Fiig declined to comment on whether anyone was still under investigation in the case; originally nine people were charged, BNS reports. 

Not clear if former Danske CEO among those no longer charged 

Danish police had searched the homes of nine former Danske managers, including the bank's former CEO Thomas Borgen. 

The latter's lawyer gave no comment to DR News on Thursday on their client, Borgen, who stepped down from his post as a result of the case, was still being charged, and declined to comment on the situation with former CFO, Henrik Ramlau-Hansen, who had also been charged. 

Lawyer for Mikael Ericson, head of Danske's international activities from 2014 to 2016, confirmed that their client was no longer charged, as did counsel for the bank's former head lawyer Flemming Pristed. 

The Danish media has been unable to get comment from the remaining former managers, including erstwhile director of Danske's international business activities Lars Morch. 

Danske investigations in several countries 

Danske is under investigation over alleged money laundering in France, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S., as well as in its home country and in Estonia. 

The bank had admitted failure to adequately screen around €200 billion in non-resident flows through its Estonian branch, which was located in Tallinn. 

The bank's own probe into the matter found that a large component of that sum was viewed as suspicious. 

Danske ordered to close in 2019 

Estonia's Financial Supervision and Regulatory Authority ordered the Tallinn branch of Danske Bank to close its non-resident business 2015 after it came to light that potential violation of anti-money laundering rules by the bank may have happened in the years 2007-2015. 

The prosecutor's office in Estonia opened a criminal proceeding in the Danske case in 2018, while in February 2019 the FSA banned the activity of the branch of Danske Bank in Estonia, giving it several months to wrap up all of its activities and close down its Narva mnt offices. The prosecutor said in January 2020 that Danske Bank investigations had revealed over 10 predicate offenses, amounting to over US$ 2 billion. 

In the U.S., the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced in December 2020 that their Danske investigation was being concluded, since the bank probably did not breach U.S. sanctions when its Estonian unit handled billions of dollars in potentially illicit funds. 

Other U.S. investigations ongoing 

The bank added in a stock exchange announcement, however, that the OFAC announcement does not rule out the possibility the authority may take: "future enforcement action should new or additional information warrant renewed attention," BNS reports. 

The finance ministry in Estonia subsequently pointed out that the closing of the investigation concerning the violation of financial sanctions does not free Danske Bank from other investigations taking place simultaneously in the United States or potential fines. 

For instance, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are continuing their investigations into Danske Bank's potential links to money laundering. 


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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