The former CEO of Swedbank has been charged with fraud, market manipulation and unauthorized disclosure of inside information, after an investigation into a large-scale money laundering scandal in the Baltic states.
Birgitte Bonnesen, who was sacked as chief executive two years ago when the scandal erupted, “repeatedly spread misleading information” that the bank had no issues with its anti-debt processes. money laundering (AML) in Estonia, according to the Swedish economic agency Criminal Authority.
Thomas Langrot, chief prosecutor and head of the investigation, said Bonnesen, intentionally or through gross negligence, had disseminated misleading information about the state of the bank’s anti-money laundering measures.
And this despite the fact that Bonnesen had access to unpublished information on “significant and serious deficiencies” in the system and to information on “many suspicious transactions / customers”.
An official report by law firm Clifford Chance, commissioned by Swedbank, found that the bank carried out € 37 billion (£ 30 billion) in high-risk money laundering transactions between 2014 and 2019.
Langrot said there was evidence of a “cover-up” at Swedbank to prevent money laundering issues from becoming public.
“I have chosen to prosecute primarily for gross fraud, but there is a secondary claim regarding gross manipulation of the market,” Langrot said. “The misleading information gave the false impression that Swedbank did not or did not have problems with AML processes in the bank’s operations in Estonia.”
Last year, Swedbank said it would not file a claim for damages against its former top executive and board.
Swedbank and Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest bank, remain the subject of a criminal and civil investigation by US regulators over money laundering scandals amounting to hundreds of billions of euros via their branches in the Baltic States.
Thomas Borgen resigned as CEO of Danske Banke in 2018 after admitting that the vast majority of the € 200 billion passing through his Estonian branch was laundered cash illegally sourced from Russia, the UK and the Virgin Islands British.