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Swedish Bank SEB Accused of Money Laundering

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Investigations done by the news agency TT and broadcaster SVT revealed that 25 SEB clients recorded transactions with 18 corporate entities linked to the Magnitsky case. Tax lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, died in a Russian prison in 2009 after he accused Russian officials of siphoning money from the firm he was working for, Hermitage Capital. Hermitage Capital was the largest foreign investment fund in Russia at the time and Mr. Magnitsky accused the Russian tax officials of embezzling $230 million from the firm. 

Approximately 194 clients at Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB are doubted using the bank to launder money through Swedish and Baltic accounts with about 474 million Swedish kronor ($49.4 million) connected with the Magnitsky case. 

The accusations come days after Australia’s Westpac bank was accused of 23 million breaches of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulations. Similar accusations were made at Swedbank and Denmark’s Danske Bank. The Danske Bank is being investigated on allegations that around $230 billion in dubious funds from Russia and other former Soviet states entered Europe through its branch in Estonia.

SEB Chief Executive Johan Torgeby told Reuters after SVT reported on the story, 

“In the comprehensive analysis that we have made of our business in the Baltics, we have not seen that SEB has been used for money laundering in a systematic way.”

Torgeby also talked about the actions required of this report and said, “The program showed us nothing new which we need to act on today.” 

SVT reported that the SEB client list contained ‘red flags’ – names associated with familiar proxies for Russian non-resident corporations suspected of money laundering. The report by SVT was based on a cache of leaked information provided by the Organized Crime and Corruption Project investigative reporting consortium. 

Providing past date, SEB showed that nonresident money flows in Estonia. In between 2005 and 2018, around 25.8 billion euros ($28.4 billion) moved in and out of its nonresident Estonian customer accounts related to low transparency customers. 

“These flows cannot be equated to confirmed money-laundering activities, but there is rather an increased risk for money laundering here,” the bank said.

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