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Estonian Authorities Investigating Swedish Bank For Alleged Money Laundering 

The investigation stems from supposed fraud that occurred between 2014 and 2016

Swedbank says Estonian authorities are investigating one of its local subsidiaries for money laundering.

The Swedish bank released a statement on March 24 revealing its Estonian subsidiary, Swedbank AS, was initially investigated by the Estonian Financial Supervisory Authority in 2019.

The investigation stems from supposed money laundering conducted by the institution from 2014 to 2016.

The bank said representatives of its Estonian operations met with police earlier this month, per AP News.

“Swedbank AS has now been served with a suspicion of money laundering. The maximum fine for the suspected crime is 16 million euros ($17.57 million),” the Stockholm-based institution said in its statement. “Swedbank AS will review and analyze the suspicion in detail and continue the cooperation with the authority to resolve the historical matter.”

In January, Swedbank’s Chief Executive Officer Brigitte Bonnesen was charged with fraud in January in connection to a three-year money-laundering scandal involving the financial institution. In 2018 and 2019, Bonnesen made several public statements claiming the bank did not have a problem with its Anti-Money Laundering process in its Estonia location.

According to NASDAQ, “the bank said last year it would not file claims for damages against its former top executive and board for the fiscal year 2019, when it was placed under investigation over money-laundering breaches in the Baltics.

The charges were brought by Sweden’s Economic Crime Authority, which said in a statement that this misleading information gave a false impression of its operations. Swedish authorities believe Bonnesen was aware of the money laundering problems.

“The former CEO of the bank intentionally or through gross negligence … disseminated misleading information about the bank’s measures to prevent, detect, and report suspicions of money laundering in Swedbank’s operations in Estonia,” lead prosecutor Thomas Langrot said, per Politico.

The money-laundering accusations are not the first to be levied at Swedish financial institutions.

“Swedbank faces large U.S. fines after failing to thwart criminals from using its operations to launder money,” reports Bloomberg. “The scandal led to a swath of forced departures from the bank and a $386 million fine imposed by Swedish authorities in 2020.”

Swedbank is one of Sweden’s largest lenders. It expanded its operation in Estonia in the 2000s after the smaller country was admitted to the European Union. It has branches throughout Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The bank’s consensus net income for 2022 is estimated to be $2 billion.

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