Bill Browder files criminal conduct report against Swedbank

Bill Browder.
Bill Browder. Source: AFP/Scanpix

British-American investor and Hermitage Capital investment fund CEO Bill Browder filed a report of criminal conduct against Swedbank in Sweden this week.

Sums mentioned in the report hint at cash flow that is allegedly tied to the Magnitsky affair having been far greater than previously thought.

"The information I gave to the authorities concerns only a very small part — a single offence," Mr Browder said in an interview with Swedish public broadcaster SVT on Wednesday. "There is a lot more data to face and analyse."

The report at daily Postimees' disposal describes Swedbank's involvement with the Magnitsky affair flow in considerable detail over more than 20 pages.

"Swedbank employees who were responsible for client relations were careless and did not try to stop suspicious transactions," Mr Browder had written in his letter to the Swedish authorities. "In several cases, signs of danger were clear that in turn raised the question of whether employees knowingly aided and abetted.

The report includes page after page of detailed schemes that show networks of (shell) companies that bounced around tens of millions connected to the Magnitsky affair.

The schemes include over 100 Swedbank accounts in Estonia that were opened during money laundering years from 2007-2015. Many reveal companies that were registered in exotic tax havens in order to hide the true identities of those moving the sums.

Information available to the press recently concerned $26 million handled by Swedbank in the Magnitsky affair. Hermitage's latest criminal offence report, however, now mentions $176 million.

Number of banks implicated

The report concerns money connected to the Magnitsky affair moving between three banks: Swedbank, Danske Bank Estonia and Lithuania's Ūkio Bankas.

Information shared by Hermitage suggests that of the total sum, $158 million moved from Ūkio to around 600 Swedbank accounts registered in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The report suggests €36 million of suspicious assets landed in the account of a company called Esterson Enterprises S.A. The firm was registered in the Caribbean but had a bank account in Estonia.

Hermitage has determined that said company received some $16 million from Altem Invest Limited, which is allegedly owned by Russian businessman Dmitri Klyuev. Hermitage Capital believes Klyuev is one of the organizers of Hermitage's $230 million scam.

Materials attached to the report list dozens of similar companies registered, for example, in Belize, Panama or the British Virgin Islands but having opened bank accounts at Swedbank Estonia. The accounts of these companies in Estonia received the lion's share of the aforementioned $158 million.

Hermitage has also established how a total of $18 million was transferred from 13 accounts at Danske Bank's Estonian branch to dozens of Swedbank accounts tied to the Magnitsky affair. 12 of the latter belonged to companies that did not have business activity in Estonia and that gained notoriety following initial revelations in Danske's own money laundering case.

Alarm bells ignored

"These accounts saw money that was tied to the Magnitsky case, transactions had nothing to do with normal business activity and formed a visible pattern," Mr Browder cited among reasons why these transfers should have set off alarm bells.

For example, sums were transferred from five of these accounts to the British Virgin Islands' Rickam Worldwide Corp which had an account at Swedbank Estonia. The account saw a total of $3.6 million, or about one-fifth of the money that was moved between the two banks and interests Mr Browder. Transfer details are characteristic of money laundering, reading "equipment" or "electronic equipment."

Money was moved from accounts at Danske to a company called Phone and Equipment Ltd. in Swedbank under the same transfer details — another company registered in the British Virgin Islands that maintained an account at Swedbank Estonia.

Accounts with no ties to Estonia

The criminal conduct report includes other Swedbank Estonia accounts the owners of which have no connection to Estonia. In addition to offshore ventures, the list includes a number of companies registered in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Postimees has in recent weeks written about Narva companies Logowest and Ronfard that received money from accounts at Danske Estonia.

Both companies received sums from three Danske accounts mentioned in Mr Browder's report and were opened by companies outside of Estonia; Logowest and Ronfard are also mentioned in the report.

Mr Browder's latest report to Swedish prosecutors comes a mere four months after Hermitage Capital's report concerning Nordea Bank. Pressure from Mr Browder was at least partly responsible for Estonia's Office of the Prosecutor General having reopened an investigation into events at Danske's Estonian branch.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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