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Billions of kronor may have been laundered through major Swedish bank

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Billions of kronor may have been laundered through major Swedish bank
The head office of Swedbank, north of Stockholm. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
08:42 CET+01:00
One of Sweden's major banks is thought to have been used for the laundering of millions of kronor over a period of several years.

The suspected laundering at Swedbank could be linked to a major scandal at Danske Bank and other money laundering cases, according to the investigation by public broadcaster SVT.

According to SVT, 50 customers who exhibited "clear warning signals" that they may be involved in money laundering transferred around 40 billion kronor ($4.3 billion) between Swedbank and Danske Bank.

Preliminary charges were brought against the Danish lender last winter and it could face heavy fines over the suspected laundering, which is being investigated by authorities in France, Denmark and the US.

Some 200 billion euros, the bulk of which appears to have come from uncertain sources, was channelled through Danske's Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015.

Following that scandal, Swedish banks have claimed they were not open to the same type of laundering, due to a focus on domestic companies and individuals rather than international customers. Swedbank CEO Birgitte Bonnesen has said the bank has a "completely different approach", but documents seen by SVT suggest this may not be the case.

These documents show significant transactions in the Baltic countries between Danske Bank and Swedbank, taking place between 2007 and 2015. These include companies without contact information or telephone numbers, many sharing the same UK address. A total of around 300 million kronor was sent by Swedbank customers to 40 companies at one address.

And there are thousands more customers of the bank who have accounts in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania but are registered overseas, including in tax havens such as the British Virgin islands and Belize.

Whether the transactions can be considered as money laundering depends on whether the money originates from criminal activity. Some of the transactions showed money moved from Danske Bank to Swedbank accounts from nine companies linked to tax fraud in Russia, SVT reported.

Swedbank did not respond directly to the allegations, but its head of communications said the bank was working to prevent money laundering.

"We are confident with the systems and processes we have for preventing and preventing money laundering," the bank's head of communications told TT. "When we see signs, we act."

He would not comment on how many cases of suspected money laundering Swedbank had reported to police during the years in question, but said the bank "does not recognize" the list of customers or amounts referred to by SVT.

The chair of Transparency International's Swedish chapter, Louise Brown, described the allegations as a "massive scandal".

"From what we've learned from SVT's information, Swedbank's accommodation of suspicious transactions comprised a significant part of the money laundering operations, in parity with Danske Bank," she said.

The full investigation is available to watch (with English subtitles optional) on SVT Play.

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