Swedbank to allow prosecutor to question lawyer over money laundering

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedbank SWEDa.ST has moved to end a spat with one of the authorities investigating possible money laundering at the bank's Estonian business by granting permission for it to interview the lawyer who carried out an internal probe into the allegations.

FILE PHOTO: Swedbank signs on a building in Vilnius, Lithuania, March 30, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

The Swedish lender fired its CEO and its chairman resigned in the wake of the allegations being investigated by authorities in Sweden, the Baltics and the United States.

The new chairman, former Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, has promised full transparency.

But until now the bank has refused requests from Sweden’s Economic Crime Authority (ECA) to interview a lawyer who Swedbank employed to investigate its compliance with anti-money laundering regulations.

“Swedbank’s board has decided to meet a request from the Swedish Economic Crime authority to waive attorney-client privilege regarding attorney Erling Grimstad’s assignments for Swedbank,” the bank said in a statement on Tuesday.

ECA prosecutor Thomas Langrot wrote to Swedbank’s interim CEO Anders Karlsson and Chairman Goran Persson this month to repeat the request to interview Norwegian lawyer Grimstad.

Swedbank has handed over reports written by Grimstad to the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority, which is also conducting an investigation.

In its clearest admission of fault since the scandal broke early this year, Swedbank said its anti-money laundering processes had been and still were insufficient, both in Sweden and Estonia.

“The division of responsibilities within the bank has not been clear enough and the bank has not always complied with internal policies,” it said.

The bank said it had appointed a chief compliance officer and would provide more information on its work to combat money laundering alongside its quarterly report on Oct. 23.

Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by David Goodman