Estonia unexpectedly ordered Danske Bank on February 19 to close its local branch. Moments later, the Danish lender, which is embroiled in the largest-ever money laundering scandals, announced plans to pull out of Russia and all neighbouring Baltic states.
Danske is under investigation in Denmark, Estonia, Britain and the United States over some €200bn in payments from Russia, ex-Soviet states and elsewhere that were found to have flowed through its Estonian arm.
As reported by the Reuters news agency on February 19, Estonia’s financial regulator took the unexpected step of demanding Danske close its local branch and repay customers’ deposits within eight months, overturning the lender’s plan to scale back but keep business in the country.
Danske said last year it hoped to serve subsidiaries of Nordic customers in the Baltics.
And then, just minutes after the announcement from Estonia’s regulator, Danske published a statement to say it would close down its business in Latvia, Lithuania, Russia and Estonia.
Danske’s operations in those four countries earned 657m Danish Crowns of income, according to its 2018 annual report.
According to Reuters, Danske has more than 3,000 staff in those countries, although many will stay because Danske will not close its large administrative back-office operation in Lithuania.