Investigation: Russian Special Service Reps Laundered Millions of Dollars Through Estonian Danske Bank

According to data published in the online edition of OCCRP, in 2013, the Estonian branch of the Danish bank Danske Bank closed the accounts of several companies after the leakage of information that these accounts were used by the Russian Special Services (FSB) to launder large sums of money.

The bank's directors were informed about non-compliance relating to anti-money laundering procedures at the Estonian bank's branch and that the bank may have been involved in "committing a criminal offense." The crime was to assist a certain company whose actual owners were representatives of Russian Special Services, in making a range of suspicious transactions.

Last September Danske Bank launched its own investigation of the situation, however the the bank's top management now faces a wave of resentment from representatives of the Danish political elite, accusing the financial institution managers of inactivity for such a long period of time in relation to the Estonian branch.

On February 27th a new angle on the case was announced by the prosecutors from Estonia. It was stated that they would begin investigating the reasons why the bank's branch did not inform the Estonian authorities about money laundering related to Russian politicians and the FSB. Many remember that in 2014, Estonian financial regulators conducted investigations against Danske Bank on a number of similar charges.

Launder and run

The Estonian Danske Bank has already been seen in money laundering schemes on many accounts. As an example, the case with the laundering of billions of dollars through Azerbaijan, the ultimate owners of which are politicians from Europe who support the anti-democratic regime in Baku.

Another investigation confirmed Russia's participation in illegal financial schemes, identifying the laundering of more than USD $60 billion from Russia through a global network of banks including Danske.

Regarding the latest investigation, it showed that Lantana Trade LLP had provided the UK Tax Service with false information about its status as a "dormant" company with a negligible cash flow. In reality, for 11 months huge amounts of money passed monthly through the company's account opened in the bank in 2012.

The branch did not establish who ran the company, which carried out "suspicious payments only within the framework of the Compliance procedure." According to financial investigator L. Burke Fileza, on a scale of 1 to 10, the bank's negligence can be estimated at 11 points. It's not surprising: according to preliminary estimates, approximately USD $10 million might have been withdrawn daily with the help of illegal financial schemes during the existence of the account.

Only after the transactions were completed, the bank launched an internal investigation that identified the ultimate owners of the company. As it turned out, the owners whose names were covered by Directors of offshore companies in the Marshall Islands and the Seychelles "were connected with several Russian banks, which ceased operations several years earlier."

Is it too late?

The audit of the Estonian Danske Bank began only last year, after other illicit affiliate affairs surfaced. However, financiers believe that it is too late to take any actions.

According to the bank representatives, they had to act faster. "Now, the level of control in Estonia is much higher than it was when all those events occurred." the bank said in its statement.

"We began a thorough investigation to get to the bottom of the events that happened then at our Estonian branch. However, until the investigation is completed, we cannot comments on this at the current time."- Danske Bank representatives furthered.


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