Denmark’s biggest bank, Danske Bank A/S, is under investigation. The bank faces allegations of money laundering through its branch in Estonia.
The Estonian Prosecutor’s Office announced the investigation on July 31 after it reviewed a complaint from Bill Browder, a co-founder of Hermitage Capital.
As reported by Bloomberg, it’s too early to say how long the investigation may last, Kaarel Kallas, a spokesman for the agency, said by telephone in Tallinn.
Danske Bank is ready to assist with the probe, spokesman Kenni Leth said by email. “It’s up to the authorities to decide how to address the issue,” he said. “We have no further comment at this stage.”
According to Bloomberg, Browder’s allegations focus on mostly Russian money he says was funnelled through Danske’s Estonian unit in the years 2007 to 2013. The case takes its starting point in $230m that Browder says can be traced back to transactions linked to the death of his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. He says the full amount laundered through the bank may exceed $9bn.
According to Browder, the new investigation is “crucial because Danske Bank in Estonia was one of the main transit points of the money from the Magnitsky case before it was then distributed all over Europe”.
“This has morphed into an enormous political scandal in both Denmark and Estonia, and it’s good that it’s no longer being swept under the carpet,” he added.
In a separate report, The Baltic Course noted that the legal affairs committee of the Estonian parliament held an extraordinary sitting on July 31 to discuss the responsibility of authorities concerning the case.
Those invited to the sitting included Justice Minister Urmas Reinsalu, Prosecutor General Lavly Perling, director of the Central Criminal Police Aivar Alavere, head of the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Police and Border Guard Board Madis Reimand, a representative of the penal law and procedure division of the justice ministry’s criminal policy department. A representative of the public order and criminal policy department of the interior ministry, a representative of the finance ministry and chairman of the management board of the Financial Supervision Authority Kilvar Kessler were also invited.
Chairman of the committee Jaanus Karilaid said he had convened the sitting in order to find out why nobody had taken the responsibility for the case of money laundering through the Estonian branch of Danske Bank.
“We would like to get answers from the supervisory agency and the investigative bodies on how this criminal deception could be carried out through Estonia for such a long time, and if the authorities have done everything they can to investigate it,” Karilaid was quoted as saying.