Sunday, May 22, 2022

Swedbank fires Estonia executives amid historic money laundering scandal


Three top executives at the Estonian branch of Swedbank, including a one-time candidate for central bank governor, have been fired amid an ongoing investigation into a vast money-laundering scandal.

The news came not long after police in Estonia confirmed that the former chief executive officer of the local branch of Danske Bank had taken his own life, as criminal probes into the Danish lender’s involvement in a €200bn dirty-money affair continue. Swedbank is being investigated for its possible involvement in the Danske saga.

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Estonia has emerged as ground zero for Europe’s worst-ever laundering case, after the local branches of both Danske and Swedbank were allegedly used to funnel billions of dollars in suspicious funds from the former Soviet Union into the West.

Danske said on Tuesday its local branch has been put in liquidation as it completes an exit from Estonia first announced in February, following an order from the financial supervisor.

Stockholm-based Swedbank, which dominates the financial industry in the Baltic region, said late on Monday that its former Estonia chief executive Robert Kitt, who had been suspended since June, has now lost his job. He had been seen at one point as a candidate to replace Ardo Hansson as the governor of Estonia’s central bank, a position that would also guarantee a seat on the governing council of the European Central Bank.

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Vaiko Tammevali, who had been chief financial officer at Swedbank in Estonia before being suspended in June, also lost his job, as did Kaie Metsla, the current head of the bank’s private customer division, according to a statement late on Monday.

Swedbank said it appointed Olavi Lepp as its permanent chief executive to run the Estonian unit. Anna Kouts will take over as CFO, it said.

The decision to remove the executives was based on “information concerning historical shortcomings connected to anti-money laundering work,” according to Bjoern Elfstrand, council chair of Swedbank Estonia.

According to the bank, ongoing investigations into money laundering have so far not shown that there was any criminal activity.

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