Despite the media attention Estonia has received regarding money laundering, it does not significantly differ from other countries as there have been money laundering cases in banks in every country, the new head of the money laundering data bureau Matis Mäeker said.
"Different cases are looked into in the European Union. Danske Bank's Estonian branch's case was one of the first ones and it's often used for stating that we have problems," Mäeker said on Vikerraadio on Monday. "But when reading the international media, there is no European Union member state in which banks have not been related to a money laundering scandals."
Mäeker mentioned the Netherlands as the latest example after a bank was fined €500 million. Several years ago, banks in the UK were fined. The money laundering data bureau in the U.S. recently revealed the banks that had been associated with money laundering.
"This is not specific to Estonia. We are used to reading the Estonian media, which brings such cases to the public, but it's nothing different," Mäeker emphasized.
He also said that in 2015, the percentage of non-residents in Estonian banks was 20 percent and 8 percent of them came from outside the European Union, now, the numbers have decreased to 10 and 1 percent.
Mäeker confirmed that Estonians are considered experts in the field and are invited to speak at conferences on the subject.
He also said that the fight against money laundering has become increasingly important, as international crime has become so complex that it is very difficult to detect.
Mäeker also pointed out that since criminals use computers and special algorithms to launder money, he is also trying to use the same tools in his own office to investigate these crimes.
The government appointed Mäeker, who has worked for the Financial Supervision Authority for the last 10 years, as the new head of the bureau on Thursday. He will take up his new position on June 14.
Editor: Roberta Vaino