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IMF to examine Nordic efforts to stop money laundering in the Baltics

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund will examine efforts by Nordic banks and regulators to stop money laundering in the region and the Baltic countries, Sweden’s central bank said on Thursday, following a string of alleged lapses.

FILE PHOTO: Sweden's Riksbank Governor Stefan Ingves speaks to reporters in Stockholm October 26, 2010. REUTERS/Bob Strong/File Photo

Nordic banks have been hit by a steady stream of allegations over failures to combat money laundering in the Baltics, which have sent shares in Sweden's Swedbank SWEDa.ST and SEB SEBa.ST and Denmark's Danske Bank DANSKE.CO tumbling.

“There have been discussions for a while to have someone from outside look at how we handle - or rather have not handled - money-laundering questions in the Nordics and Baltics,” Sweden’s central bank Governor Stefan Ingves told reporters.

He said work on framing the investigation was well underway and the IMF would start work in the first half of 2020.

“It is about looking at the system as a whole and seeing whether we are working in a sensible way in the Nordic and Baltic region in relation to these questions, not least in terms of the cross-border aspects,” Ingves said.

Authorities are investigating allegations that accounts at Swedbank and SEB in the Baltics were potentially used to launder money.

Swedbank has said it is conducting an internal investigation into suspected money laundering.

Danske Bank is under investigation in several countries, including the United States, over payments totaling 200 billion euros ($220 billion) through its small branch in Estonia between 2007 and 2015 - many of which the bank has said were suspicious.

On Wednesday, Swedish Television (SVT) said SEB accounts in Estonia may have been used to launder money in the so-called Magnitsky affair.

SEB’s CEO has denied any link.

Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 after accusing Russian officials of large-scale tax fraud. He died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after complaining of mistreatment.

Reporting by Simon Johnson; editing by Jason Neely and David Clarke