Denmark, a Nordic kingdom not often associated with financial shenanigans, is facing a massive scandal with banking champion Danske Bank accused of helping to launder $8.3 billion through an Estonian subsidiary.
Danske, Denmark’s biggest bank, had been in the crosshairs of investigators since Danish daily Berlingske last year claimed that it had been behind the laundering of around $3.9 billion of dirty money from a string of Eastern European countries.
But after receiving bank statements from 20 companies with accounts in Danske Bank’s Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015, the paper this week reported that the real figure was actually more than twice that.
“This gravely serious case will become much worse if the latest information is correct,” Denmark’s business minister Rasmus Jarlov said on his Twitter account.
“This casts a shadow of doubt over the entire financial sector,” Jarlov said, adding the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority is reviewing the information which appeared in Berlingske.
The watchdog is in contact with its Estonian counterpart to discuss possible actions.
An audit in the spring concluded that there was no basis for raising criminal proceedings against the bank.
“It is too soon to draw any conclusions about the extent of potential money laundering in Estonia,” Danske Bank’s head of group compliance, Anders Meinert Jorgensen, told AFP in an e-mail.
“That is the reason why we have not ourselves published figures or commented on speculations about potential amounts,” he added.
– ‘Wrong to speculate’-
The group has acknowledged that its control over the Estonian branch has not been good enough and launched its own investigation into the matter last year. The results are expected in September.
“Until the investigations launched have been completed in September…it would be wrong to speculate any further,” Jorgensen said.
Danske Bank’s share prices has fallen by over 25 percent over the past year on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange.
Unexpectedly, Danske finds itself in the company of other major European banks that have been ensnared in massive laundering scandals in recent years including France’s BNP Paribas and Germany’s Deutsche Bank.
“There is no doubt that even one krone laundered is one too many, and that we take this matter very seriously,” Jorgensen said.
But critics are not convinced that they do.
“Any competent money laundering scientist would have come to the conclusion that there were clear indications of money laundering that should have been reported to the authorities,” British money laundering expert Graham Barrow told Danish broadcaster TV2.
“The extent of this case is so big that management should have been aware of the billion-dollar suspicious transactions,” Danish legal adviser Jakob Dedenroth Bernhoft added.
– Criminal complaint –
The bank statements from 20 companies at Danske Bank are linked to a fraud case exposed by the Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was jailed for revealing high-ranking Russian officials involvement in stealing massive tax payments from several companies, including the investment fund Hermitage Capital.
Magnitsky died in 2009 aged 37 after being held for a year and denied medical care.
Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital and Magnitsky’s former client who was kicked out of Russia for exposing corruption at the largest state owned companies, said he has spent nine years tracking money laundering in the nation.
“We are currently drafting a criminal complaint with the new information revealed about money laundering at Danske Bank that we intend to file with the Danish and Estonian law enforcement authorities,” Browder told AFP in an e-mail on Wednesday.
The US-born British citizen said the money was laundered at Danske Bank’s Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015 after travelling through “a complex network of sham companies and money laundering banks” in Moldova, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine.
Russia and Azerbaijan are also mentioned among the list of countries in Berlingske’s report.
Browder has led a high-profile campaign in memory of his former employee.
In 2012, the US passed the “Sergei Magnitsky Act” which imposed a visa ban and froze the assets of Russian officials suspected in the lawyer’s death.
“I’ve been on a nine-year fight for justice for Sergei Magnitsky which has included tracing the proceeds of the crime, which led us to Danske Bank,” he said.
UK travel giant Thomas Cook set to collapse: report
Thomas Cook's 178-year existence was reported to be coming to an end on Monday after the British travel firm struggled to find private investment to keep it afloat, potentially affecting thousands of holidaymakers.
The operator has said it needs £200 million ($250 million) or else it will face administration, which could affect 600,000 holidaymakers and require Britain's largest peacetime repatriation.
A source close to the negotiations told AFP that the company had failed to find the cash from private investors and would collapse unless the government intervened.
But ministers are unlikely to step in due to worries about the pioneering operator's longer-term viability, the Times reported, leaving it on the brink.
‘We are the people’: Watch Billy Porter get a standing ovation for his passionate speech at the Emmys
In a powerful and passionate speech accepting his Emmy, "Pose" actor Billy Porter showered the audience with love and proudly reminded all of their right to belong and be loved.
"Oh, my God. God bless you all! The category is love, y'all, love!" Porter exclaimed.
The epic FX show "Pose" depicts Black and Latinos in the LGBTQ ballroom culture of New York City in the 1980s in the first season and the early 1990s in the second season.
"I am so overwhelmed and so overjoyed to have lived long enough to see this day," he said. "James Baldwin wrote, 'It took many years of vomiting up the filth I was taught about myself and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.' I have the right. You have the right. We all have the right."
Paris show of King Tutankhamun artifacts set new record with 1.42 million visitors
A blockbuster Tutankhamun show set a new all-time French record Sunday, with 1.42 million visitors flocking to see the exhibition in Paris, the organisers said.
The turnout beat the previous record set by another Tutankhamun show billed as the "exhibition of the century" in 1967, when 1.24 million queued to see "Tutankhamun and His Times" at the Petit Palais.
"Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh" -- which has been described as a "once in a generation" show -- will open in London in November.
The last time a show of comparable size about the boy king opened there in 1972 it sparked "Tutmania", with 1.6 million people thronging the British Museum.