HELSINKI (Reuters) - Nordea, the Nordic region’s largest bank, handled 700 million euros ($790 million) in suspicious transactions between 2005 and 2017, Finnish broadcaster Yle reported on Monday, citing leaked documents.
Yle, part of a group of media companies working on wider allegations of money laundering in the Baltics linked to Russia, said the money originated from companies registered in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands, Panama or Belize.
The leak did not reveal if Nordea, whose Nordic rivals Swedbank and Danske Bank face allegations over a money-laundering scandal in Estonia, had reported the alleged suspicious transactions to authorities, Yle said.
Nordea shares fell almost 7 percent after Yle said it would air allegations of money-laundering through the bank. The shares later recovered some of the losses to close 3.9 percent down.
The bank said that the information in Monday’s media report had been covered previously and that it had already commented on the allegations.
“The information that was published today revolves around a complex of allegations that has been covered by media before and that Nordea has commented on previously,” Nordea said in an emailed statement to Reuters, adding that it had reported to relevant authorities when it found suspicious behavior.
“We recognize that our systems in the past may not have been robust enough to counter this sort of financial crime. For that we are truly sorry,” the bank said.
Nordic financial watchdogs said in October that they had received documents from Bill Browder’s Hermitage Capital, alleging Nordea breached its responsibilities under anti-money laundering laws.
Nordea said at the time that it was working with authorities and had reported all suspicious transactions.
Casper von Koskull, its CEO, is due to appear on Finnish TV at 1900 GMT, along with Pekka Vasara, head of money-laundering investigations at the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation.
The Finnish Financial Supervisory Authority told Reuters it would need to investigate the allegations further before being able to comment on them.
“Another day, another bank, new allegations,” investment bank KBW, which has an underperform rating on Nordea stock, said in a note to clients.
Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest lender, is already being investigated in five countries over 200 billion euros of suspicious payments from Russia, ex-Soviet states and elsewhere that were found to have flowed through its Estonian branch.
And Swedbank is under investigation by Estonian and Swedish regulators after a television report last month alleged that money laundering could have occurred in at least 40 billion Swedish crowns ($4.3 billion) moved between Baltic accounts at Swedbank and Danske between 2007 and 2015.
News of the Yle report on Nordea also hit shares in Norway’s largest bank DNB, the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian operations of which merged in 2017 with Nordea’s business in the region to form Luminor, the third-largest Baltic bank.
However, Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, which is part of the investigative media group, said DNB was not involved.
“We have not been contacted by Yle,” a DNB spokesman said.
Norway’s financial regulator was not immediately available to comment on the situation.
Nordea and DNB agreed to sell a 60 percent stake in Luminor to a Blackstone private equity consortium for 1 billion euros in September and said the deal was expected to close during the first half of 2019.
Blackstone was not immediately available for comment.
Additional reporting by Esha Vaish in Stockholm, Terje Solsvik in Oslo, Stine Jacobsen and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Copenhagen; Writing by Gwladys Fouche in Oslo; Editing by Keith Weir, Alexander Smith and David Goodman