Danish watchdog may open new probe of alleged Danske Bank money laundering

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - A newspaper report alleging Danske Bank DANSKE.CO laundered up to $8.3 billion (6.28 billion pounds) through its Estonian branch could prompt Denmark's financial watchdog to open a new investigation into the bank, the country's business minister said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Danske bank logo is seen on a branch office in Riga August 1, 2013. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

Shares in Danske Bank fell more than 3 percent after Danish daily Berlingske alleged the bank’s Estonian branch was a conduit for suspicious money flows worth at least 53 billion Danish crowns (6.27 billion pounds), more than twice the amount previously reported.

The daily said it was in possession of bank statements for 20 companies that held accounts with the Estonian branch over various periods from 2007 to 2015.

“It is too soon to make any conclusions about the extent of potential money laundering in Estonia,” Danske Bank’s head of group compliance, Anders Meinert Jorgensen, said in an email.

“Therefore, we have not published our own figures or heeded speculation on the extent of this case. But we have indicated on several occasions that the extent appears to be somewhat bigger than what has previously been reported,” he said.

Danske Bank has admitted to flaws in its anti money-laundering controls in Estonia and launched its own investigation into the case, which is due to present its findings in September. But Denmark’s new business minister said the bank’s own investigation might not be enough.

“It looks like a lot of money has been made on illegal activities. This is very serious, and I think we need clarity about it,” Rasmus Jarlov said, according to several local media.

“The FSA (Financial Supervisory Authority) is reviewing the new information that Berlingske reported last night. At the same time, the FSA is in contact with the Estonian counterpart to discuss possible actions in light of the new significant information,” he said.

Danske Bank says it has closed down the concerned non-resident accounts at its Estonian branch and is doing all it can to prevent criminal abuse.

Denmark’s FSA said in May major flaws in Danske Bank’s money laundering controls in Estonia made it possible for its branch there to be used for criminal activity, and the bank reacted too slowly when it was made aware of the weaknesses.

Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Mark Potter