European Interest

Danske Bank’s money laundering scandal unfolds

Flickr/anna chiara b./CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
A view of Danske Bank, Copenhagen, Denmark.

How much dirty money transited through the Estonian subsidiary of Denmark’s biggest bank, Danske Bank? This is the question that investigators are trying to answer.

As the investigation continues, the latest twist in this headline-making money laundering scandal is that the lender’s chief executive is out of a job. Thomas Borgen resigned as CEO as a result of the probe.

“It is clear that Danske Bank has failed to live up to its responsibility in the case of possible money laundering in Estonia. I deeply regret this,” Borgen told reporters in Copenhagen on September 19.

As reported by the media, more than 1.5 trillion Danish kroner (€201bn) transited through the Estonian subsidiary of Danske Bank between 2007 and 2015. This is based on an outside law firm that carried out a probe for Danske Bank.

The Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on September 19 that Danske Bank said it’s impossible for now to say how much of the gigantic sum was dirty money, but said that it couldn’t rule out that a lot of the “suspicious transactions are criminal”.

Of the around 15,000 accounts under investigation (which Danske Bank closed in 2015) 6,200 are considered suspicious and most of them have been brought to the attention of authorities.

The ongoing investigation is being closely followed across the European Union, including inside the European Parliament. Following the release of the findings of the investigation into Danske Bank’s branch in Estonia, S&D MEPs have called for more EU wide action to tackle money laundering.

The group’s vice-president responsible for taxation, Jeppe Kofod MEP, and spokesperson for the Parliament’s special committee on tax, Peter Simon MEP, issued the following statement: “Over a period of years, billions of euros from Russia and ex-Soviet states flowed through the Danske bank’s branch in Estonia. The sheer number of transactions and the amount of money involved is staggering.”

According to Simon, the S&D Group is pushing for stronger supervision and harsher sanctions for banks involved in money laundering and closer cooperation and exchange of information. “That is why we social democrats have pushed the European Commission to come up with proposals to make the European Banking Authority (EBA) a key player in the fight against money laundering, especially if national money laundering authorities fail to do their job properly. We welcomed the Commission’s proposal on this from last week, which would give a more comprehensive mandate to the European Banking Authority (EBA) to address anti-money laundering issues.”

“We must improve cooperation between national financial crime units to ensure that what occurred at Danske Bank’s branch in Estonia cannot happen again.”

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