The culprits in the case related to alleged money laundering at Danske Bank must be held responsible, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) said on social media on Friday.
"Many questions have been raised, with good reason, in our public media spac concerning allegations of money laundering at Danske Bank in Estonia in the years 2007-2015," Ratas wrote on Facebook. "In my opinion, this is a very serious problem which has undermined the international reputation of finance and all of Estonia. I firmly support the prompt and comprehensive establishing of all circumstances and holding the potential culprits responsible.
"We have to find out if any national agencies, and which, have worked ineffectively in the Danske case — as well as obtain clarity regarding how widespread the problem of money laundering is in Estonian credit institutions more broadly. When deliberately committed illegal actions are revealed, the banks which have profited from them in Estonia must also bear responsibility."
The prime minister wrote that he has also given orders to the Estonian government to discuss the related set of issues at a Cabinet meeting before the end of the month. "I consider broad-based cooperation of all involved organisations and an active role by the Riigikogu and the government very important," Ratas said, stressig the importance of the support and cooperation of all parliamentary parties on this matter.
"It is my firm conviction that the most important currency for banks is trust, which has to be offered to clients free of any doubt," he continued. "It is the role of all related agencies, including the Estonian Banking Association, to ensure that the check mechanisms were strong enough and opportunities for illegitimate financial schemes were precluded. In the case of Danske Bank, the entire truth must be brought to light. Only by doing so can we restore trust in credit institutions and the Estonian state, which have suffered a serious blow, and ensure that similar events will not be repeated in the future."
Legal Affairs Committee declines to form work group
The Legal Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu on Thursday discussed the possibility of forming a money laundering prevention work group, but ultimately decided not to do so. According to committee chairman Jaanus Karilaid (Centre), the committee decided to begin holding hearings of its own so as not to waste any time.
Karilaid told ERR that the committee decided not to form a work group or select committee, as the Legal Affairs Committee has the same rights but would not have to pay for a separate official or submit its draft resolution to the Riigikogu, which could take up to a month or month and a half's time.
"We decided that we don't want to lose any time right now and will begin holding hearings within the framework of the Legal Affairs Committee," he explained. "We want to summon a representative of the Bank of Estonia on 10 September. Our initial task is based on the Danske Bank — how is it possible that our law enforcement authorities and our bulwarks were unable to prevent this in time and this was able to go on on such a large scale and for such a long period of time?"
The committee also wants to gain a clear overview of which commercial banks in addition to Danske are under watch, and just how deep this issue goes. According to Karilaid, the committee wants to achieve some sort of results by the end of October or beginning of November.
The committee chairman noted that the goal is also to understand how to better strengthen the legal order in Estonia to ensure that there would be no repeats of such cases in the future, as well as how the division of labour could be improved between the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS), the Prosecutor's Office, the Bank of Estonia and the Financial Supervision Authority.
Danske Bank's Estonian operations may have been used to launder as much as €7 billion, which is more than twice as much as initially believed. The case is being investigated by Danske Bank itself, the High Court of Paris as well as the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority.
Bill Browder, co-founder and CEO of investment fund Hermitage Capital and the former employer of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, on 25 July filed for a criminal investigation to be launched against 26 employees of the Estonian branch of Danske Bank who allegedly enabled the laundering of billions of dollars of dirty money through the bank.
Estonia's Office of the Prosecutor General launched an investigation into the potential money laundering on Tuesday, 31 July. Prosecutors in Denmark launched their own investigation into the matter a week later.
Editor: Aili Vahtla
Source: BNS, ERR