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TALLINN, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Estonia’s central bank said on Friday that the value of cross-border transactions made by customers of domestic banks was not exceptionally high in an international perspective amid an unfolding crisis over possible money laundering.
The European Union member country of just 1.3 million people has been rocked by revelations that banks there laundered money from Russia, Moldova and Azerbaijan via non-resident accounts.
“The value of international payments initiated in Estonian banks in 2008-2015 was 3.1 times the GDP of Estonia, which is a similar ratio to those of Belgium, France and Finland, and behind that of Germany for example,” the central bank said in a statement.
It added that the value of international transactions per capita was “substantially below the European average.”
Shares in Danske Bank, the bank at the heart of the crisis, fell to a four-year low on Friday, a day after the bank said it faces a U.S. criminal investigation into a 200 billion euro ($230 billion) money laundering scandal at its Estonian branch.
On Wednesday Estonia’s central bank said banks there handled more than $1 trillion in cross-border transactions between 2008 and 2017, raising market fears that problems could be wider than initially expected.
“Eesti Pank statistics on cross-border payments do not give an indication on the share of possible high-risk transactions from the anti-money laundering perspective,” the central bank said on Friday.
“It is very misleading to think that all the international payments of the whole country are suspicious.”
$1 = 0.8691 euros Reporting by Tarmo Virki; writing by Simon Johnson; editing by Niklas Pollard and Louise Heavens