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Tuesday 25.06.2019 | Name days: Maiga, Milija

Anti-fraud activist Browder to submit criminal complaint over Swedbank

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Bill Browder, British financier

British investor and activist against Russia-related money laundering, Bill Browder, has voiced plans to submit a criminal complaint against Swedbank to Swedish authorities over its involvement in alleged money laundering transactions in the Baltics.

Canadian-British news agency Reuters reports that Browder said to it on Thursday, February 22: «It is my intention to file a criminal complaint against Swedbank».

Browder, a British financier and economist, who has lobbied the U.S. to pass the Magnitsky Act over tax fraud related to Russia, declined to specify when he would file the complaint.

Swedish public television research journalism programme Uppdrag Granskning reported earlier of suspicions that there had been many suspicious money transfers between Danske Bank and Swedbank in Baltic countries between 2007 and 2015. The total amount of money in question reaches at least SEK 40 billion. Approximately 50 Swedbank clients were supposedly offshore companies and corporate clients that did not perform any kind of business activities.

Swedbank does not have sufficient information to comment the accusations voice by Swedish media in regards to the bank’s possible involvement in money laundering schemes, said the bank’s governor Birgitte Bonnesen.

As noted by the bank, it has complied with all requirements introduced to prevent money laundering.

«We know nothing about those 50 clients and the mentioned amount EUR 3.8 billion,» said Bonnesen at a telephone conference, adding that Swedish television has not shared information used as base for accusations. Nevertheless, Swedbank is interested in any information that can help the bank uncover suspicious transactions.

Swedbank government said money laundering is a major problem all banks around the world face. However, the risk for Swedbank is lower, considering the bank’s internal model.

«We focus on servicing private persons on domestic markets. International transactions are not part of our business model. The ratio of non-resident among our clients is approximately 1%, and most of them are EU residents,» she said.

According to Bonnesen, international transactions that have been on a stable level for years are not proof enough of money laundering activities. The only thing that has changed is dependence on economic changes. Additionally, relative digits have been balanced in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

On Wednesday, 20 February, Lithuania’s central bank reported that it has no information to suggest Swedbank’s involvement in money laundering activities. Estonia’s financial services monitoring institution mentioned that the information detailed in materials reported by journalists have to be checked.

Latvia’s Finance and Capital Market Commission’s chief Pēters Putniņš said at a press conference on Wednesday, 20 February, that new about Swedbank’s possible involvement in money laundering schemes is in the past and that the bank has already been punished. Putniņš added that FCMC plans to discuss this information with the bank. Still, he said that based on the information he does have these are «affairs of the past».

«FCMC had previously penalized Swedbank for problems with its internal control mechanisms, but the bank has since fixed all problems. Additionally, Swedbank has concluded the process in which the bank closed non-residents’ accounts. If it turns out that some of the funds of Danske Bank are related to money laundering, we will have to analyse just how deeply the two banks are involved,» said Putniņš.

Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš said information about Swedbank needs to be checked. «Any crime needs to be investigated, regardless of when it took place,» said Kariņš.


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