The European Central Bank (ECB) pulled the license of Estonian lender Versobank on March 26, following the bank’s long-standing breaches of measures against money laundering and financing terrorism.
The ECB acted on the request of the Estonian Financial Supervision Authority (FSA), which determined during inspections held in 2015-2017 that the breaches were “systemic and long-lasting.” The bank continued with shady operations even after the FSA probe.
The closure of Versobank is likely to have little impact on the banking system in Estonia, the Baltic state’s central bank Eesti Pank ascertained.
“Versobank had a marginal share of the market and mainly handled services for clients from outside Estonia. At the end of last year, clients had around €253mn of deposits in Versobank, which is equal to only 1.5% of all the deposits in banks operating in Estonia,” Eesti Pank said in a statement.
Of the deposits in Versobank, 87% were held by non-residents,” the central bank also said.
The total share of non-resident deposits in Estonia was at 8.5% in 2017, compared to a peak of 21% in 2012. Non-resident deposits made just 2.8% of all deposits in Lithuania, while they were at 41% in Latvia. The latter country has recently stepped up efforts to curb non-resident banking, an effect of the closure of the country’s third-largest bank ABLV following charges of money laundering in financing terrorism floated by the US.
Estonia is also investigating Danske Bank over allegations made by the Danish and UK media that the bank’s branch in Estonia was involved in money laundering, the FSA said in late February.
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