Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Swedbank laundered money, but it was unintentional – Former Baltic CEO

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Former Swedbank Baltic CEO Priit Perens told daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) in an interview that he and his colleagues never consciously laundered money, and that the heads of Estonian banks did not foresee changes in regulations and society.

“… Expectations of banks have changed so much. As Erkki Raasuke (current Luminor CEO – ed.) once said, we all will, as bank heads, make punishable mistakes sooner or later. We can be guilty in not understanding certain processes, changes in expectations,” Perens told EPL (link in Estonian).

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He added: “… i reiterate what I said earlier – neither I nor any of my colleagues knowingly laundered money. Money laundering is a conscious process.”

Perens also noted that society cannot set a policing function on banks: “At times, banks have more rights to monitor their clients than the prosecution does – and without asking for the clients’ permission. I do not think this is right. Instead, society should take monitoring actions away from the private sector; it should only be managed by bodies set up for that purpose. The police are always better with monitoring; more so when instructions are unclear.”

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Perens is currently the head of the Tartu University Hospital, having worked as the CEO of Swedbank Estonia from 2008 to 2014. From 2015 to 2017 he was the head of Swedbank Baltic Banking. Until 2019, he was a member of the Supervisory Board of Swedbank’s Baltic banks.

In early-2019, a report by Swedish public broadcaster SVT linked Swedbank in Estonia to the Danske money laundering case. Billions of euros in potentially illicit funds are later found to have passed through the bank’s portals, adding to the €230 billion thought to have passed through Danske Estonia, in the period 2007-2015.

Swedbank was issued a fine of 4 billion Swedish kronor, or approximately €360 million, in March of 2020. The Danske Bank money laundering case is still ongoing, with lawyers representing Danske claiming in early-October that information leaked to the media in both Estonia and Italy has rendered moving forward with the money laundering case moribund.

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