Estonia looks into claiming share of Danske Bank money-laundering fine

The National Library is temporarily based in the former Danske Bank building.
The National Library is temporarily based in the former Danske Bank building. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Estonia is looking into whether it can claim a share of the fine imposed on Danske Bank after the company pleaded guilty to a long-running money-laundering scheme using Estonian banks on Tuesday.

Danske Bank agreed to forfeit $2 billion and will pay out an additional $413 million based on an agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Indrek Tibar, an advisor at the Prosecutor's Office, said Estonia worked closely with U.S. law enforcement agencies throughout the investigation.

He said a separate decision will be made if Estonia, or any other country affected, will receive a share of the fine.

"Within the cooperation framework we established with the US authorities over the years, we are currently working to find out whether and to what extent Estonia is entitled to a share of the imposed fines," said Tibar.

The fine does not affect the ongoing criminal investigation in Estonia, which has only reached the pre-trial stage, he said.

"Defence lawyers for the six people are currently examining the material collected in the criminal proceedings, and have until mid-February to do so.," he said.

Martin Helme: Danske investigation went as I expected

Martin Helme. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Former Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) said he predicted the outcome of the investigation and, by trying to save money, Estonia has missed out on a share of the fine.

Helme said he hired U.S. lawyer Louis Freeh and the law firm Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan LL to perform the same role for Estonia as a Danish lawyer did for Denmark, which gave them a slice of the fine.

"That's exactly what happened, those banks were fined in America and those fines are very large, in the billions. This fine was indeed shared with those who cooperated in the investigation. The Danish state received more than 400 million of that fine for showing cooperation," he said on Wednesday.

The EKRE chairman said Estonia could have done more to help the investigation and he said the U.S. Department of Justice said Denmark received money because it cooperated.

"Obtaining documents, interrogating people, interrogating all kinds of internal bank documents or whistleblowers and bank employees on the spot," he said.

"Requests for legal assistance were made to Estonia, which were answered by the Ministry of Justice or the Prosecutor's Office, but America simply said it appreciates the answers we sent," said Helme, adding this shows Estonia did not help the U.S. as much as Denmark did.

The politicians said Estonia did not want to deal with the issue and because the current government did not want to pay Freeh's fees, Estonia missed out.


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Editor: Barbara Oja, Helen Wright

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