Swedish Daily: European bank to investigate Swedbank Estonia ({{commentsTotal}})

Swedbank ATM in Estonia.
Swedbank ATM in Estonia. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The European Central Bank (ECB) is investigating Swedbank's Estonian branch, Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter reports, as cited by Reuters. The investigation, which the ECB had declined to comment on, may take several months, the daily reports, citing an unnamed source.

Sweden's public broadcaster SVT reported in February that Estonian branches of Swedbank and Danish bank Danske between them had accounted for at least SEK 40 billion, or about €3.8 billion of potentially illicit funds, though other reports on the Danske activities have put the figure far higher, at as much as €230 billion in potentially illicit funds, between 2007 and 2015.

Danske has been ordered by the Estonian Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA) to close its branch in Estonia this year.

Alleged potentially illicit funds are reported to have moved via Swedbank in Estonia over roughly the same timeframe, and SVT has also said it got hold of internal Swedbank report, which stated that around €135 billion in high-risk money moved through the bank's Estonian branch over a ten-year period.

Swedish authorities are not going to initiate criminal proceedings against Swedbank, in relation to a criminal conduct report filed in early March by British-American investor Bill Browder, SVT has also reported.

However, Mr Browder, whose company Heritage Capital once employed the services of Sergei Magnitsky, a money-laundering audit specialist who died in capitivty in the Russian Federation in 2007, filed a criminal report on Swedbank with both the prosecutor's office and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) at the beginning of April, according to ERR's online Estonian news.

Reuters says both the Swedish FSA, and the ECB, declined to comment on the matter, when approached.

The ECB has no powers in investigating money laundering itself, the article states, but once money laundering authorities have performed their tasks, the ECB is entitled to then examine if a bank complies adequately with regulations.

In fact as Estonia is in the eurozone, unlike Sweden, its Swedbank subsidiary falls within the ECB's direct remit.

Swedbank is Estonia's largest high-street bank, with reported 2018 profits of €207 million in 2018, a 21% increase on the previous year.

Editor: Andrew Whyte



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