According to Prosecutor General Lavly Perling, in connection with the Danske money laundering scandal, Danske Bank's former account managers and a division leader were arrested and suspected of money laundering on Tuesday and Wednesday. Former CEO Aivar Rehe, however, is not among the suspects.
According to Ms Perling, the Central Criminal Police launched their first public procedural acts on Tuesday, including arrests and searches, but the procedure itself was launched a year ago already.
"Estonia's judicial system has not stood by and watched, but rather launched its procedure in November 2017," she noted.
According to the Prosecutor General, all of the arrested individuals are suspected of money laundering on a large scale and in a group of persons. One individual is also suspected of accepting a bribe, and another in the aiding thereof.
"These suspects are the so-called first line of defence, who have been account managers whose task was to prevent cases of money laundering," she noted.
The investigation is examining two specific lines of money laundering conducted in Georgia and Azerbaijan to the extent of approximately €300 million.
"Applications for the seizure of goods have been submitted in the scope of more than €1 million," Ms Perling said. "The circle of suspects will likely widen."
Prosecutor: Investigative journalism played crucial role
State Prosecutor Marek Vahing noted that the environment of the Estonian justice system from 2010-2017 must be taken into consideration.
"There were repercussions which were primarily the result of the fact that we were unable to prove a predicate offence," Mr Vahing explained. "We were able to prove a cover-up, but not predicate offences."
Mr Vahing acknowledged the media, which by summer 2017 had gotten pretty far with its investigation.
"The role of investigative journalism in the identification of Danske's various money laundering suspicions was a good initiator for further actions," he explained. "We started receiving information that we did not previously have. The most significant was that in summer of 2017, we started piecing these bits of information together and we received tips that the activity at Danske was systemic and conducted for bribes."
According to Mr Vahing, the initial protocol provided for the mapping out of specific money laundering chains and the conduct of money launderers.
"Two predicate offences are under investigation whose money laundering chains we have mapped," he said. "When Bill Browder's appeal arrived, this was further evidence that we were ont he right path."
Criminal police chief: Ex-CEO not among suspects
Director General of the Central Criminal Police Aivar Alavere said that his Danish colleagues have this year informed regarding 7,500 clients and a total of €25 billion.
Mr Alavere confirmed that most of those arrested were cited by name in Browder's criminal report. "Aivar Rehe is not among them," he added.
"All internal regulations had been accepted at Danske Bank, but they acted in large part formally," the director general explained. "Substantive reviews were insufficient. This activity was systemic, with the goal of earning a profit. The number of suspects will increase."
According to Mr Alavere, two schemes are under investigation that date back to 2011-2013. He added that alleged fraud took place in Georgia, while alleged tax fraud took place in Georgia.
The Central Criminal Police on Tuesday arrested six and on Wednesday morning another three former Danske Bank employees suspected of knowingly allowing bank clients to move money suspected of being laundered.
Bribery charges unrelated to Danske case
Speaking to BNS, Mr Vahing clarified that bribery-related allegations against two of the suspects were not connected to the Danske money laundering case.
"We didn't lodge the bribery suspicion against them for Danske," he said. "The bribe, yes, is a different topic, the details of which we will not go into now."
Mr Vahing did, however, note that the case of alleged bribery involved Estonia and was not connected to any foreign country.
The precise charge against the second of these two Danske ex-employees suspected of bribery has not yet been determined. "We are still looking at whether [the individual] brokered or aided," he said.
Editor: Aili Vahtla