FI’s comments on the supervision of anti-money laundering activities in the Baltics

2019-02-23 | News Money laundering Bank

Due to the reports in the media regarding suspected money laundering in Swedbank’s Estonian operations, FI is issuing the following comments.

The newspaper Svenska Dagbladet has made the claims that FI's management played down the risks of money laundering in Swedish banks' Baltic operations and that management stopped a proposal at a meeting of the Bank section's Supervisory Committee in October to review Swedbank's Baltic operations. These claims are incorrect, and FI questions the information from the newspaper's sources.

The Supervisory Committee discussed on 22 October a proposal to open an investigation into money laundering in SEB (not Swedbank, as asserted by the newspaper's source). The proposal from the investigation group was to focus the investigation on the Swedish operations. Svenska Dagbladet's reporting is correct in that a discussion was held about whether it was possible to expand the investigation to include the Baltic operations, but it was with regard to a different bank than the bank identified by the newspaper's source. The Committee was in agreement that the risks were greater in the Baltic operations and that it was important for FI to address these risks given the revelations about Danske Bank. It was also stated that it was difficult for FI to conduct a meaningful investigation of the Baltic operations on its own accord – such an investigation needed to be done in cooperation with the Baltic authorities.

The week prior to this meeting FI had met at an expert level with the supervisory authorities and financial investigative units in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to discuss mapping the risks in the Baltic operations. The assessment at these meetings was that the Baltic authorities were actively working with these risks and that the banks' anti-money laundering efforts in their Baltic operations had improved, even if there were deficiencies farther back in time. The discussion within the Supervisory Committee also emphasised that it was important for FI to conduct new investigations of the banks' Swedish operations. This decision was in line with the investigation group's proposal to open an investigation into SEB's Swedish operations and that the head of the Anti-Money Laundering Department at FI would submit a proposal to the Supervisory Committee for how FI could also address the risks in the Baltic operations.

This matter was discussed again by the Supervisory Committee on 12 November, and the decision was made at that time to address the risks in the Baltic operations in the ongoing mapping project. The mapping project is based on the assessments that were made by the Baltic authorities and the internal investigations that were conducted by the parent banks in SEB and Swedbank. The proposal was also laid forth at the same meeting for an equivalent investigation into Swedbank's Swedish operations, and the decision was made to conduct such an investigation. A decision was also made to address the money laundering risks in the Baltic operations in the ongoing mapping project. The aim of this investigation was to gain an up-to-date overview of the risks and a basis on which to move forward with any additional measures, primarily together with the Baltic authorities.

The mapping project and the investigations of SEB and Swedbank are currently ongoing. On 21 February, as a result of the reportage by SVT's investigative journalism program Uppdrag Granskning, FI and the Estonian supervisory authority reached an agreement to investigate the matter together. The Latvian and Lithuanian authorities will also participate and assist in this investigation.

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