Billions of euros from suspicious sources have been moved through the Baltic branches of Nordic bank Nordea and Norway's DNB banks, The Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle) has reported.
According to Yle's information, at least part of the money moved is tied to money laundering, i.e. the attempt to legalise criminally obtained money. At least €3.9bn from suspect sources has been moved via the two Nordic banks, ERR.ee, an Estonian news website, reported on June 13.
The banks' internal investigation reports have been leaked, according to which suspect money transfers were connected to Nordea branches in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as to the Tallinn-headquartered Luminor Bank, the Baltic states' third largest bank, which was established by Nordea and DNB in 2017 and then sold to private equity group Blackstone. Luminor's internal investigation report also raised suspicions that in two instances, a bank employee had been involved in money laundering.
Luminor's internal documents were handed over to global investigative journalist consortium Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), of which Yle investigative journalism unit MOT and three Baltic publications are members.
Nordea turned down Yle's request for an interview, but then emailed the Finnish broadcaster a statement in which it confirmed that two audits involving external participation have been conducted regarding the bank's activity in the Baltic countries, neither of which turned up shortcomings in the bank's prior activities in the region.
The Helsinki-headquartered bank also declined to comment regarding Luminor, confirming that it had sold its majority stake in the bank, due to which anything going on at Luminor was no longer relevant to Nordea. Bank representatives did stress that Nordea does not condone either current or previous use of the bank for money laundering purposes. Private equity group Blackstone took control of Luminor in 2018.
According to Luminor, suspicious bank transfers have been reported to the authorities. The bank has not provided Yle with any further information, however, as the law allegedly does not permit them to do so. DNB has likewise not commented regarding the content of its report.
In October 2018, a month before Luminor's internal investigation began, Caspar von Koskull, then CEO of Nordea Bank, reported that the bank did not have any problems with money laundering in the Baltics.