Swedish bank SEB missed money laundering ‘red flags’ in Estonia: TV report
27 Nov 2019

Swedish Television (SVT) reported on Wednesday that it had obtained a list of 194 clients of Swedish bank SEB (SEBa.ST) connected to suspected money laundering in Estonia.

The public broadcaster’s investigative show “Uppdrag Granskning” reported that the client list, which also showed about 2,000 transactions, contained “red flags” – names associated with well-known proxies for Russian non-resident companies suspected of money laundering.

SVT said the report was done in collaboration with the Organized Crime and Corruption Project consortium of investigative reporting, which provided a cache of leaked information.

SVT said the transactions included around 475 million Swedish crowns ($49.35 million) connected to the so-called Magnitsky affair in Russia. The money moved through SEB accounts, the broadcaster reported.

Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer arrested in 2008 after accusing Russian officials of involvement in large-scale tax fraud. He died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after complaining of mistreatment.

“I find it surprising that they didn’t see, both within their own client base, but also within some of the counterparties who were paying through their client base, significant areas for concern,” money laundering expert Graham Barrow said in the broadcast.

On Tuesday night SEB said in a statement that it had processed close to 26 billion euros ($28.66 billion) from non-resident Estonian customers between 2005 and 2018 that would not meet the bank’s current standards of transparency.

SEB Chief Executive Officer Johan Torgeby’s statement sought to defend the bank’s record.

“In the comprehensive analysis that we have made of our business in the Baltics, we have not seen that SEB has been used for money laundering in a systematic way,” he said.

“Still, at any given time, all banks are subjected to the risks that financial crime entail,” Torgeby added.

In April, Torgeby said he was “comfortable” with how the bank had conducted itself in the past but that there were no guarantees.

The revelations risk bringing SEB deeper into a long running Baltic money scandal which has hammered the shares of rival Swedbank and Danish lender Danske Bank.

By Johan Ahlander and Colm Fulton, Reuters, 27 November 2019

Read more at Reuters

Photo: VargaA [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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