Money laundering: European Commission ‘targets small banks, closes eyes at big banks’
20 Nov 2018

The European Commission has been accused of being biased in its approach to tackling money laundering, with a former Maltese leader saying the body targets smaller banks while turning a blind eye on such crimes at bigger European banks.

Alfred Sant singled European Commissioner for Justice Vera Jourova, saying she never mentions banking giants that have been involved in money launderings scandals, such as Deutsche Bank, but chooses instead to focus on small banks based in places like Malta.

The European Central Bank recently withdrew Maltese-based Pilatus Bank’s licence following allegations of money laundering and the US arrest of its founder for allegedly violating sanctions.

“Doesn’t it sound curious that you suddenly start talking about a very small bank in a very small country and not about Deutsche Bank and Danske Bank,” Sant said during a France 24 interview on money laundering in Europe.

“Let us also focus on the big fish, the big fish haven’t been mentioned by Madam Jourova for instance … [There are many cases in Germany, France,] they don’t get mentioned,” he said.

KYC360 asked Sant’s office to clarify his remarks as there are instances when Jourova has discussed the Danske issue. He replied via email:

“It’s not a question of mentioning or not mentioning scandals when they happen. It’s a question of launching investigations with much pr into systemic abuses on a European scale and the equivalent.

“Ms Jourova did it very happily and with full publicity, for the relatively minor case of Pilatus Bank in Malta as well as the relatively minor Maltese financial sector, but hardly did likewise (not just “mentioning”) in the cases of Danske, Deutsche etc.”

Both Deutsche and Danske banks have been mired in money laundering scandals. Last year the former agreed to pay British and American authorities €620 million ($630 million) in penalties.

Danske Bank recently said that its Estonian branch had processed around €200 billion in suspicious funds over a number of years, much of which is thought to have been laundered.

A spokesman for the European Commission and Jourova’s office said ‘we don’t comment on comments,’ and pointed to infringements launched on 8 November.

Irene Madongo

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