The trial former CEO of Swedbank, Birgitte Bonnesen, is about to begin in Sweden. Bonnesen is charged with fraud and market manipulation in relation to alleged money laundering activities at the bank's Estonia branch.
This is the first time in decades that a former CEO of a major Swedish bank has been prosecuted, public broadcaster SVT reports (link in Swedish), while Bonnesen will likely face real jail time if found guilty.
Swedish lead prosecutor Thomas Langrot states that Bonnesen had propagated misleading information about Swedbank's anti-money laundering measures in relation the bank's Estonian branch, while she is also charged with unauthorized disclosure of the bank's internal information - as she had allegedly informed the bank's largest stakeholder about the disclosure of a working party's work before the relevant information had been madepublic.
The charge concerns the period from the fall of 2018 to February 2019, i.e. following the Danske Bank case had come to light in Estonia.
That very case sparked journalistic interest both in Estonia and in the Nordic countries in the activities of banks such as Swedbank and SEB, while at the time, Bonnesen had denied that Swedbank had experienced money laundering issues similar to those of Danske, SVT reported.
Bonnesen and her lawyer have declined to comment ahead of the trial.
A figure of Bonnesen's position being charged with fraudulent activity is also unusual in Sweden, SVT reports, while if convicted after the estimated eight-week trial Bonnesen would face jail-time ranging from six months to six years, SVT says.
Official suspicions against Swedbank Estonia and its former board members of involvement in money laundering related to totals of over €100 million in the period 2014-2016.
Swedbank's share price in its home country fell by just over 20 percent, corresponding to approximately SEK 50 billion (approx. €4.6 billion) SVT reports.
Journalistic coverage of the case and the fining of two individuals covering it for investigative weekly Eesti Ekspress raised media freedoms concerns earlier this year.
Over €200 billion in suspicious transactions passed through Danske Bank's Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015,
Editor: Andrew Whyte