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Swedbank chief executive sacked as €135bn money laundering scandal escalates

Birgitte Bonnesen dismissed after allegations that accounts at the bank she ran were used to wash €20bn a year of suspicious cash, including funds from Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort

Ben Chapman
Thursday 28 March 2019 12:04 GMT
How is money laundering done through property?

Swedbank has sacked its chief executive after allegations that accounts at the lender were used to launder billions of dollars of questionable Russian and Ukrainian money.

Stockholm-based Swedbank was allegedly a conduit for some of the world’s most notorious strongmen including deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich. This week reports emerged that Donald Trump’s former campaign manager and convicted felon Paul Manafort also received money via the bank.

Swedbank’s chief executive Birgitte Bonnesen was dismissed on Thursday after investigators in Sweden and Estonia opened up probes into €135bn (£115bn) of suspicious cash.

US authorities are also looking into the bank which is linked to what is thought to be the world’s largest ever money laundering case.

The allegations tie Swedbank to a €200bn dirty money scandal centring on Danske Bank. The Danish lender’s Estonia branch uncovered nine years of suspicious transactions which lawyers believe had been used by criminals and corrupt officials to launder funds.

According to a whistleblower who uncovered the scandal, UK companies were also used to hide the source of billions of euros of questionable money. The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has said it is investigating the use of UK-registered companies in connection with the widening scandal.

Ms Bonnesen, who ran Swedbank’s Baltic banking unit between 2011 and 2014 was dismissed after denying any link to the money laundering case.

Swedbank’s chief financial officer Anders Karlsson will step up to the top job on an interim basis.

The bank’s headquarters were raided by on Wednesday as part of a separate insider trading investigation into allegations that Swedbank’s biggest investors were given advanced notice of a report into money laundering. After markets closed, it emerged that the bank was also being investigated for fraud.

Related video: How is money laundering done through property? (EPA)

“The developments during the past days have created an enormous pressure for the bank,” Chairman Lars Idermark said in a statement on Thursday.

Shares in the bank have plummeted almost a third since the scandal first broke last month wiping around €7bn off its market value.

Swedbank is accused of handling up to €135bn in suspicious funds between 2010 and 2016 in Estonia, Sweden’s public television network SVT reported this week.

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