New CEO Promises to Clean-up Scandal-Ridden Swedbank

Published: 13 December 2019


Swedbank. (Credit: Hardmen9 [CC BY-SA 3.0])

By Laura Mallene

The new CEO of a Swedish bank plagued by money-laundering scandals told Estonian national TV that the bank had a poor management and that he plans to make changes on the top level.

Jens Henriksson replaced Birgitte Bonnesen who was relieved of her duties at the beginning of this year after the scandal broke out. He told ERR that he was tasked by the Governing Council to carry out extensive cleaning of the bank after Swedish television revealed that accounts in the bank were used to launder money.

The allegations tie Swedbank to Danske Bank which hit the headlines after journalists revealed the role Danske’s Estonian branch played in allowing billions of dollars to be laundered over the past decade.

"We have had money laundering problems. We have not had good governance and internal controls. We have allowed suspected money launderers to use Swedbank and that is not good," said Henriksson.

At the end of September, Swedbank begun terminating contracts with a number of its managers, including the head of the Estonian branch, where the laundering took place. 

Henriksson said the clean-up will not stop there. 

"This is a whole new beginning for Swedbank," he noted.

 Henriksson met on Friday with representatives of the Estonian Central Bank and the country’s Financial Supervision Authority. 

 Asked whether the dismissals were done because of serious misconduct or to save the image of the bank, Henriksson replied that he thought it was necessary to update the management structures.

 He said that with the help of an international law firm the bank is currently conducting an internal investigation into billions that passed through the bank’s accounts in Sweden, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia between 2007 and 2019.

 He stressed that the entire Swedbank Group is responsible for the situation.

As financial experts are combing through past transfers, journalists are also digging into available evidence.

Last month OCCRP and Swedish national public TV channel Sveriges Television (SVT) 

published a new story involving Swedbank. Citing the bank’s internal draft report, reporters exposed how Russian oligarch Mikhail Abyzov built a complex network of offshore companies that were used to move a fortune out of Russia.