Swedbank vows deeper review of money laundering claims

Swedbank vows deeper review of money laundering claims

Swedbank’s board backed its under-pressure chief executive as it released a heavily redacted report into money laundering allegations and promised a deeper review of the claims. 

Chairman Lars Idermark said the board had “continued confidence” in Birgitte Bonnesen as chief executive and backed her as the right person to lead the biggest bank in the Baltics in its fight against money laundering. 

Ms Bonnesen said that Swedbank would set up a financial crime intelligence unit to “secure a continued focused approach as criminal behaviour develops over time”. 

The Swedish bank saw its shares sink by a fifth in one week in February after the Swedish state broadcaster alleged that first $5.7bn and then more than $10bn had flowed between customers at Swedbank and Danske Bank, the Danish lender at the heart of a $200bn money laundering scandal. 

The bank is facing a joint investigation by Estonian and Swedish regulators as well as a criminal complaint by Bill Browder, who has filed similar claims against Danske and Nordea over alleged Russian money laundering. It is also under criminal investigation over whether it broke insider information rules over the scandal.

An initial report into the alleged money flows – investigated and written in just three weeks by consultants Forensic Risk Alliance – had many of its details redacted, making it difficult to understand how extensive any problem at Swedbank was. 

The review concentrated only on 50 entities named by broadcaster SVT and whether they had been customers of the bank and if and when they had been terminated as a client. 

But the results indicating how many of those entities had been customers were redacted, indicating only that some of them had been customers and that the last transaction date for the unknown number of entities was May 31 2017. FRA also underlined that it had no access to previous internal investigations by the bank, only to bank data searching for signs of the 50 named entities. 

The censored nature of the findings is unlikely to answer all shareholder questions about the extent of a dirty money problem at Swedbank amid dissatisfaction at the communications of both its management and board. 

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