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Banks

Estonia claims share of any U.S. fines in money laundering scandal

TALLINN (Reuters) - Estonia said on Friday that it wanted to receive a share of any fines imposed by the United States if banks are found guilty of money laundering in the Baltic nation in ongoing inquiries.

FILE PHOTO: Estonia's Finance Minister Martin Helme of far-right EKRE Party reacts after the swearing-in of the incoming coalition government in Tallinn, Estonia April 29, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

U.S. authorities are investigating Denmark's largest bank Danske DANSKE.CO, which was forced out of Estonia after it admitted that 200 billion euros ($226 billion) in suspicious payments had been made through its branch there.

“The reputation of the Estonian state has suffered greatly in several international money laundering cases in recent years,” Estonian Finance Minister Martin Helme said in a statement, which did not name any banks.

The money laundering allegations being investigated by the United States focused on money flows through Estonia, which has been a bridge between Russia and Europe.

Helme said in a statement that if penalties are imposed on banks as a result of the investigations then Estonia wanted to “participate as a state in the distribution of fines.”

“As a country, we are the victims of this process”.

Sweden's Swedbank SWEDa.ST said in March an internal investigation found transactions totalling $4.8 million which potentially violated U.S. sanctions and that it would report this to U.S authorities.

Swedbank and SEB SEBa.ST, which are market leaders in Estonia, have both been fined by Swedish authorities for shortcomings in their anti-money laundering controls in the Baltics.

Danske, Swedbank and SEB were not immediately available to comment on Friday.

Estonia said it hired a team at U.S law firm Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan LLP, led by former FBI director Louis Freeh, to represent it in the U.S. investigations.

Reporting by Tarmo Virki in Tallinn; Editing by Colm Fulton in Stockholm and Alexander Smith

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