Estonia Charges Former Danske Bank Staff With Money Laundering

Published: 19 April 2023

Danske Bank EstoniaDanish Danske Bank division in Tallinn, Estonia. (Photo: Oop, Wikimedia, License)

By Josef Skrdlik

Estonian authorities charged on Monday six former officials at Danske Bank’s Estonian division for their alleged role in one of the biggest money-laundering scandals in history, which broke out in 2017 and is now being brought to a close.

Danske’s Estonia division funneled through more than US$220 billion in suspicious payments from 2007-2015. The majority of the illicit funds are believed to have come from Russian sources.

The Estonian Prosecutor’s Office said that the six suspects were jointly responsible for initiating and operating the money-laundering scheme, which was hidden from other units of the bank and served their personal interest.

They are accused of laundering $2 billion and 6 million euro ($6.6 million) of dirty money originating from crimes committed in Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Switzerland, the United States and Iran.

Some of the services they offered to their clients included the creation of legal entities hiding their real owners, advising how to hide the electronic trail of transactions from the bank and constructing transactions between individuals lacking real economic content.

“It was professional money laundering,” said State Prosecutor Maria Entsik.

In relation to the charges, the authorities identified and seized 10 million euro ($11 million) worth of property that the accused obtained through fees they charged for the money-laundering services.

The scandal broke out after media found that a former trader had informed Danske’s Copenhagen head office about suspicious activities taking place in the Estonian division.

In December last year, Danske pleaded guilty to bank fraud in the U.S. and agreed to pay a total of $2 billion to settle the case with U.S. and Danish authorities.

However, it is still subject to an ongoing investigation in France and a number of litigation claims related to the Estonia money-laundering scheme.