Swedbank money laundering report uncovers €37bn ‘high risk’ payments
Swedbank carried out €37bn (£34bn) of transactions with a high risk of money laundering over a five-year period, according to a damning report into the beleaguered Swedish lender’s compliance controls.
The report, published by law firm Clifford Chance, showed that Swedbank actively pursued high-risk individuals in the Batlic region, some of whom had been rejected by another bank, and found that the lender lacked the proper controls and systems to combat money laundering.
Shares in Sweden’s oldest retail bank have lost over a third of their value since the emergence of money-laundering breaches that prompted the dismissal of chief executive Birgitte Bonnesen and much of the board.
Swedbank was fined a record 4 billion Swedish crowns (£334m) by Swedish and Estonian financial watchdog over the failings last week. Swedbank has said it will not dispute the fine.
The bank is still facing an investigation in the US, as well as criminal probes in Sweden and Estonia.
“Clifford Chance’s report confirms the bank’s failure. In its anti-money laundering work, the bank has not measured up to the requirements that customers, owners and society are entitled to set,” Swedbank chairman and former Swedish prime minister, Goran Persson said.
Swedbank yesterday said it would “unilaterally cancel” the severance pay of Bonnesen, who led the lender between 2016 and 2019 after the report said she had failed to address deficiencies in the bank’s anti-money laundering controls during her years at the helm.
The report, which Swedbank hired Clifford Chance to carry out, found that some statements made by Bonnesen in late 2018 and early 2019 were “inaccurate or presented without sufficient context”.
Bonnesen’s lawyer declined a request for comment by Reuters.
In early 2019, Bonnesen denied that the bank was involved in the money-laundering scandal emerging in the Baltic region and which also engulfed Danish rival Danske Bank.
However she was ousted as chief executive two months later, just an hour before Swedbank’s annual meeting, as investors lost faith in her handling of the crisis.
“Clifford Chance’s report confirms the bank’s failure,” Swedbank chairman Goran Persson told reporters following the report’s release.
“In its anti-money laundering work, the bank has not measured up to the requirements that customers, owners and society are entitled to set”.