Billions of kronor may have been laundered through major Swedish bank

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.

Billions of kronor may have been laundered through major Swedish bank
The head office of Swedbank, north of Stockholm. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

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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Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

A man was shot to death in Kristianstad, Skåne, late on Thursday night. He is the 48th person to be shot dead in Sweden this year, meaning that the previous record for most fatal shootings in one year set in 2020 has now been broken.

Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

“Unfortunately we can’t say more than that he’s in his twenties and we have no current suspects,” duty officer Mikael Lind told TT newswire.

According to police statistics, this most recent deadly shooting means that 48 people have been shot to death in 2022, meaning that Sweden has broken a new record for deadly shootings per year.

Earlier this week, Sweden’s police chief Anders Thornberg said that this number is likely to rise even higher before the end of the year.

“It looks like we’re going to break the record this year,” he told TT on Tuesday. “That means – if it continues at the same pace – around 60 deadly shootings.”

“If it ends up being such a large increase that would be very unusual,” said Manne Gerell, criminiologist at Malmö University.

“We saw a large increase between 2017 and 2018, and we could see the same now, as we’re on such low figures in Sweden. But it’s still worrying that it’s increasing by so much over such a short time period,” he said.

There also seems to be an upwards trend in the number of shootings overall during 2022. 273 shootings had occured by September 1st this year, compared with 344 for the whole of 2021 and 379 for the whole of 2020.

If shootings continue at this rate for the rest of 2022, it is likely that the total number for the year would be higher than 2021 and 2020. There are, however, fewer injuries.

“The majority of shootings cause no injuries, but this year, mortality has increased substantially,” Gerell explained. “There aren’t more people being shot, but when someone is shot, they’re more likely to die.”

Thursday’s shooting took place in Kristianstad, but it’s only partially true that deadly gun violence is becoming more common in smaller cities.

“It’s moved out somewhat to smaller cities, but we’re overexaggerating that effect,” Gerell said. “We’re forgetting that there have been shootings in other small cities in previous years.”

A report from the Crime Prevention Council (Brå) presented last spring showed that Sweden, when compared with 22 different countries in Europe, was the only one with an upwards trend for deadly shootings.

Temporary increases can be seen during some years in a few countries, but there were no countries which showed such a clear increase as Sweden has seen for multiple years in a row, according to Brå.

The Swedish upwards trend for deadly gun violence began in the beginning of the 2000s, but the trend took off in 2013 and has continued to increase since.

Eight of ten deadly shootings take place in criminal environments, the study showed. The Swedish increase has taken place in principle only among the 20-29 year old age group.

When police chief Anders Thornberg was asked how the trend can be broken, he said that new recruitments are one of the most important factors.

“The most important thing is to break recruitment, make sure we can listen encrypted and that we can get to the profits of crime in a better way,” he said.