Persson: Swedbank to stay in Estonia and continue growing

Göran Persson, chairman of the supervisory board of Swedbank
Göran Persson, chairman of the supervisory board of Swedbank Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Chairman of the supervisory board of Swedbank Göran Persson gave a press conference in Tallinn on Friday where he said that the Swedish bank will not be leaving Estonia and is looking at expansion instead.

Göran Persson said that while the money laundering scandal has given rise to rumors of extensive changes to be made, the latter are false and Swedbank remains committed to the Estonian market.

The chairman of the supervisory board said Swedbank has four home markets — Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. "We will stay here and continue to grow," Persson said but added that this requires solving problems that led to the money laundering scandal and starting from a point where it is absolutely clear what transpired in the past. Persson said he believes Estonia's is an economy that will continue to grow and where one should be present for the next 10-15 years.

Persson started the press conference by saying he did not plan on becoming chairman of the bank's supervisory board but found it was his duty to help the bank that was created during his time as finance minister and that he has been a client of.

He explained that traditional values in Swedish banking say that one should "work hard, save money and pray" and that modern money laundering is definitely not in accordance with these values.

The former Swedish PM explained that new types of crime requires closer and more international cooperation from those fighting it, which is why he has met with Estonian authorities during his visit. Persson said we should not be naive and hope problems that led to the money laundering scandal will just go away, which is why these are preventive steps. He added that he hopes Nordic banks will be on the forefront of combating these international problems in the coming years.

Persson said he has been received openly and supportively in Estonia. He said he came to Estonia humbly as it was not his aim to tell Estonians what they need to do but to offer cooperation in mutual interests.

The banker said that anti-money laundering measures could be summed up as the principle of knowing one's client. Persson said that Swedbank's main business remains successful and that it is an effective company that can combat money laundering.

Persson, incoming Swedbank CEO Jens Henriksson and acting CEO Anders Karlsson arrived in Estonia on Thursday when they met with President of the Bank of Estonia Ardo Hansson, Minister of Finance Martin Helme and head of the Estonian Financial Supervision Authority Kilvar Kessler. Persson met with PM Jüri Ratas on Friday.

Social democrat Persson was PM of Sweden in 1996-2006 and has served on the supervisory boards of several companies, including Alandsbanken, since then. 

Swedish public broadcaster SVT wrote in February that bank accounts in the Estonian arms of Swedbank and Danske Bank saw at least 40 billion Swedish kronas, or roughly €3.8 billion, of suspicious origin moved between them. Swedish, Estonian, US and EU authorities are currently looking into money laundering at Swedbank.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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