Economy SEB says no need for action over money laundering ‘red flags’ report

SEB says no need for action over money laundering ‘red flags’ report

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SEB says no need for action over money laundering ‘red flags’ report

SEB (SEBa.ST) said on Wednesday it saw no need for further action after a Swedish Television (SVT) report said accounts at the bank had links to suspected money laundering in Estonia.

“The program showed us nothing new which we need to act on today,” SEB Chief Executive Johan Torgeby told Reuters after SVT reported that an SEB client list contained “red flags” – names associated with well-known proxies for Russian non-resident companies suspected of money laundering.

SVT said its report was based on a cache of leaked information provided by the Organized Crime and Corruption Project investigative reporting consortium.

SEB had managed to stay clear of a long-running Baltic money scandal which has hammered the shares of rivals Swedbank and Danske Bank. But its shares fell 13% on Nov. 15 after it said SVT had contacted it about the report.

SVT’s report said transactions which moved through 194 SEB accounts included around 475 million Swedish crowns ($49.35 million) connected to the so-called Magnitsky affair in Russia.

Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 after accusing Russian officials of large-scale tax fraud. He died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after complaining of mistreatment.

Torgeby denied any link between SEB and Magnitsy, saying there was a “huge discrepancy” with what SVT had reported. SEB reported previously that it had closed 95% of the accounts.

“We have not seen any evidence that any of the 179 companies on a sanctions list for their connection to the Magnitsky affair have ever been a client of SEB,” Torgeby said, adding that the bank did not understand SVT’s analysis.

SEB had said on Tuesday before the SVT show was aired that it had processed close to 26 billion euros ($29 billion) from non-resident Estonian customers between 2005 and 2018 that would not meet its current standards of transparency.

“We have not seen that SEB has been used for money laundering in a systematic way,” Torgeby said, adding that at any given time “all banks are subjected to the risks that financial crime entail”.

SEB shares were up 3.3% by 0944 GMT on Wednesday.

At market close on Tuesday, they were down almost 8% since the start of the year. Before SEB’s Nov. 15 statement, the bank had been trading up over 7% for the year.

Swedbank’s (SWEDa.ST) CEO Jens Henriksson said on Nov. 20 that the Swedish lender wanted to “get to the bottom” of a suspected funds transfer from a Russian arms company, which SVT said may have violated U.S sanctions.

Swedbank has lost around 40% of its market value since allegations surfaced that its Estonian branch processed suspect gross transactions of up to 20 billion euros a year from mostly Russian non-residents between 2010 and 2016.

The scandal began with Danske Bank, which in September 2018 detailed compliance and control failings.

Denmark’s biggest bank is under investigation in several countries over 200 billion euros ($220 billion) in suspicious payments through its Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015.