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Swedbank money-laundering scandal rumbles on as chairman steps down

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Swedbank money-laundering scandal rumbles on as chairman steps down
Swedbank's annual general meeting. Photo: Henrik Montgomery / TT
11:23 CEST+02:00
The chairman of Swedbank, the Swedish lender accused of money-laundering in Baltic countries, stepped down on Friday, the bank said a week after the board sacked its chief executive.

"Lars Idermark has, with immediate effect, decided to leave the role as chair of Swedbank. Thereby, the current deputy chair, Ulrika Francke, will become new chair," the bank said in a statement.

Swedbank has been embroiled in scandal since February when an investigative news show on public broadcaster SVT claimed to have seen documents showing that at least 40 billion kronor (3.8 billion euros, $4.3 billion) of suspicious transactions had been channelled to Baltic countries from Swedbank accounts.

Many of the transactions took place between 2007 and 2015, and some of the money may have first transited Danske Bank, which is at the centre of a giant money-laundering scandal.

Last week, Swedbank's board fired CEO Birgitte Bonnesen over the scandal.

Watchdog launches probe into Swedbank after money laundering allegations
Swedbank's former CEO Birgitte Bonnesen. Photo: Tomas Oneborg / SvD / TT

US financier Bill Browder, who has made an international career of going after money-launderers, reported Swedbank to the Swedish economic crime authorities (EBM) over the allegations.

But EBM announced on April 1st that it would not open a criminal investigation due to the five-year statute of limitations and because the events occurred before Sweden's anti-money laundering laws were tightened in 2014. Browder has appealed that decision.

However EBM is investigating Swedbank for fraud and insider trading, as the lender is suspected of favouring its 15 biggest shareholders by informing them two days in advance of the contents of the SVT news report.

Swedish and Estonian financial supervisory authorities are meanwhile probing the money-laundering allegations.

An internal Swedbank report obtained by SVT claimed that many of the bank's "high risk customers should never have been approved", and, in some cases, the bank "did not even know who the real owners of the accounts were, nor where the money was coming from." 

FOR MEMBERS: Here's what we know about the money laundering scandal at Swedbank

 
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