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Central bank governor: FSA played central role in Danske investigation

Bank of Estonia Governor Ardo Hansson.
Bank of Estonia Governor Ardo Hansson. Source: ERR

Governor of the Bank of Estonia Ardo Hansson said at the Äriplaan 2019 business conference in Tallinn that the Estonian Financial Supervision Authority (FSA) played "a central role" in the discovery of the alleged money-laundering incidents at Danske Bank's Estonian branch. He also said that control regarding money-laundering is at a good level in Estonia.

"If we look at the entire Danske saga, why the business was closed, why we are dealing with this issue at all, it is because the Financial Supervision Authority picked up the trail," Hansson said at the Äriplaan 2019 conference in Tallinn on Thursday.

Hansson added that he highly values the work of the financial watchdog, and that when it comes to Danske it is important to understand that the company in question was a branch of a Danish bank, not a subsidiary, and that this is why the bank and the Danish supervision authorities are responsible for the money-laundering case as well.

With this argument, Hansson is reiterating a point recently made by several Estonian officials and businessmen who reject the notion that the whole case is to be blamed solely on the Estonian state's lack of control.

Hansson also stressed that the alleged money-laundering at Danske's Estonian branch occurred in the past, and ended in 2015 when Danske significantly reduced its non-resident business in Estonia. "The situation is good today, I think," the governor added.

He also pointed to the quick change of the public discourse. While there were complaints a few months ago still that Estonian banks are too strict and don't open accounts for foreigners, the same people are now saying the exact opposite. "I believe that banks should be conservative in general," Hansson remarked.

An audit ordered by Danske Bank addressing the activities of the bank's Estonian branch from 2007 through 2015 showed that the bank's non-resident customers moved over €200 billion. Following its publication, the European Commission called for an investigation into the regulatory failures that led to the scandal.

The audit identified that most of the 10,000 non-resident customers of the bank's Estonian branch at the time were suspicious, and it is likely that most of the transaction flow of the bank was also problematic.

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Editor: Dario Cavegn

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