Danske Bank, Deutsche Bank channelled suspicious money through Lithuania: Danish media

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Danske Bank DANSKE.CO helped Deutsche Bank DBKGn.DE facilitate suspicious trades worth over $600 million through its branch in Lithuania between 2012 and 2015, Danish media outlets reported on Thursday.

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The reports, by newspapers Berlingske and Politiken and public broadcaster DR, cited leaked documents from Deutsche Bank obtained by the German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung and later shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The documents appear to show that Deutsche Bank moved around 4 billion Danish crowns ($627 million) in so-called mirror trades through Danske Bank in Lithuania, the Danish outlets reported.

Deutsche Bank declined to comment, and Danske Bank said it could not comment on specific matters due to ongoing investigations by authorities.

In 2017, Deutsche paid a $425 million fine in the United States over a mirror trading scheme, which moved $10 billion out of Russia between 2011 and 2015.

Mirror trades - for instance, buying Russian stocks in roubles for one client and selling the identical value of securities in U.S. dollars for a related one - are legal, but can create a pipeline for money laundering.

Authorities in the United States and other countries are currently investigating Deutsche Bank’s role in a money laundering scandal in neighbouring Estonia, where 200 billion euros in suspicious payments were made through Danske Bank’s branch.

“As we have previously communicated, as a natural consequence of the Estonia case, we are also looking at other parts of our historical business, including in Latvia and Lithuania,” Danske’s Chief Compliance Officer Philippe Vollot said.

Danske has sold off its Baltic retail banking businesses, but still has administrative back office operations in Lithuania.

Leaked documents known as the FinCEN Files prompted shares in the biggest global banks to drop on Monday after reports by BuzzFeed News and the ICIJ that they had allowed large sums of allegedly illicit funds to move through the financial system.

The reports were based on leaked suspicious activity reports filed by banks and other financial firms with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

The Lithuanian Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA) did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

($1 = 0.8575 euros)

($1 = 6.3845 Danish crowns)

Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Jan Harvey