POST Online Media Lite Edition


Banking corruption scandals in Baltics spill over to Scandinavia

Christian Fernsby |
Financial corruption scandals are not a novel phenomenon in the Baltic States.

Article continues below

Multiple Baltic banks have repeatedly been implicated in money laundering schemes involving politicians and businessmen from Russia and other former Soviet countries, The Jamestown Foundation said.

But what is notable about the latest wave of revelations is that the financial malfeasance has spilled over into the Scandinavian region.

The current banking scandal first came to light in early March 2019, when the Swedish television channel SVT conducted an independent study of the “black” cash flows passing through Swedbank, one of the country’s largest private financial institutions.

The inquiry was carried out by William Browder’s Hermitage Capital Management and was submitted to Swedish law enforcement authorities.

The investigation concluded that Swedbank and its Baltic subsidiaries have been involved in servicing illegal Russian money flows including from some sanctioned individuals on the so-called Magnitsky List (named after Browder’s Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnistky, who died in prison after being denied medical care) (, March 28).

Additionally, Swedbank, and the Danish Danske Bank, via their Baltic subsidiaries, were found to be implicated in servicing Russian, Ukrainian, Azerbaijani and Moldovan dark money.

According to Browder, Hermitage Capital estimated that, between 2005 and 2017, suspicious money transfers through Swedbank’s and Danske Bank’s Baltic subsidiaries totaled approximately $3.6 billion, involving about 50 private accounts (, April 15).

Within weeks, the money laundering scandal drastically expanded, with evidence emerging that the aforementioned banks may have processed at least $100 billion in black cash flows during the aforementioned period (, April 1).

And this time, Swedbank itself admitted in its internal report that $135 billion was laundered through its accounts over the past ten years (, April 15).

In turn, Danske Bank confirmed that, in 2005–2017, suspicious money transfers through its Estonian branch totaled $230 billion (, March 6).

It is worth recalling that, last fall, news reports found that, in 2013 alone, the Estonian subsidiary of Danske Bank laundered $30 billion from Russia.

And during 2005–2017, the Estonian branch of Danske Bank housed accounts for 20 Russian firms known to have been involved in the massive fraud case earlier exposed by Sergei Magnitsky (for which he was incarcerated in retaliation) (Business Day, September 4, 2018).

Moreover, independent researchers believe that, between 2011 and 2014, Latvian banks were collectively used to launder $7.982 billion, while Estonian banks handled $1.6 billion of such dark money flows from Russia (, March 21, 2019).

Swedbank President Birgitte Bonnesen initially denied these revelations but was later forced to acknowledge them and leave her executive position at the bank.

Likewise, the head of the Swedbank Group, Lars Idermark, also stepped down (, April 23).

These high-profile resignations do not address the root of the problem in the Baltic-Scandinavian financial system, however, which will require heighted attention to these banks’ security procedures as well as greater oversight by national bank supervisors.

This could result in significant changes to banking supervisory regulations or even the possible replacement of the national regulators’ leadership.

Banking supervisory authorities in Estonia have already announced they would begin investigations of Swedbank over the current money laundering scandal (, April 23).

In contrast, the head of the Latvian Financial and Capital Market Commission, Pēteris Putniņš said this scandal was a thing of the past and that Swedbank had already been punished for it earlier (, April, 23), thus suggesting that Riga would not carry out any further inquiries.

On April 1, the Swedish Economic Crime Authority also announced that it would not be launching an investigation into Swedbank for money laundering related to Browder’s complaint from March.

The institution’s chief prosecutor, Henric Fagher, announced in a press release that the case does not concern Swedish jurisdiction and that it, therefore, falls outside the remit of Swedish law enforcement authorities (, April 1).

The Scandinavian and Baltic banks have not been implicated solely in illicit cash flows from Russian citizens or economic entities.

For instance, the aforementioned Swedish SVT investigation revealed that money of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych may also have passed through Swedbank’s Lithuanian branch (, April 15.

And United States President Donald Trump’s former election campaign chair, Paul Manafort, may also be involved in this scandal (, April 15).

Additionally, according to the Estonian newspaper Äripäev, Estonia’s former minister of interior Ain Seppik (2002–2003) was implicated in illegal Russian cash flows through the Baltic States’ banking systems.

Specifically, he and his relatives allegedly transferred millions of dollars to accounts of several companies named in the scandal.

Moreover, the former minister and his family allegedly used at least two offshore shell companies to assist in laundering billions of dollars in illicit cash flows related to Azerbaijani authorities (, April 15).

Recently, Latvia’s second-largest bank—ABLV—was closed down by the government for servicing illegal Russian money.

Most ABLV clients had been from countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

However, ABLV Bank was also criticized for its involvement in financial schemes that were found to support North Korean missile programs.

In 2014, ABLV was the country’s largest single taxpayer in the banking sector, paying 27 million euros ($35.9 million) into the Latvian treasury (, April 23), out of a total state revenue that year of 6.843 billion euros ($9.101 billion) (, accessed April 24).

Since the Baltic States regained their independence, local elites had hoped to expand and bolster their countries’ economies by attracting large inflows of foreign money.

However, these governments paid insufficient attention to its origins, which left them exposed to exploitation by individuals or entities from Russia and the CIS looking for ways to launder illicit cash as well as evade Western sanctions.

As a result, the Baltics (and by extension Scandinavia) have over time become one of the most important regions for servicing illegal cash flows from Russia (, March 5)—a state of affairs in large part caused by Baltic political leaders’ inadequate long-term thinking on economic policy as well as their failure to build up more financial linkages with Western Europe.

That reality, as long as it remains insufficiently addressed, endangers the national security of the Baltic States and their allies while providing support to corrupt Russian oligarchs, organized crime syndicates (many with links to the government) and the Kremlin.

What to read next

India suffered $6.1 billion loss due to corruption
Canada: Time to upgrade oil spill rules
Major oil spill response resources in Arctic to be available online

British Steel plans to axe 800 jobs

British Steel plans to axe hundreds of jobs at its Scunthorpe plant, according to reports which come as ministers consider a multimillion-pound rescue package for the struggling business.


Over half of FCA staff considering leaving their jobs
Legend Rock Petroglyphs in Wyoming, history right in front of you
500,000 UK employees strike
CP Q4 revenues $2.46 billion


Fire put out at South Korea's space centre during test for next generation space rocket

Submarine volcano erupts in Vanuatu
UK faces fresh mass strikes
Reported death toll due to bad weather 44 in Philippines
After 1,400km long search missing radioactive capsule from Rio Tinto found in Australia
U.S.: Dangerous ice storm for portions of south


Mayor Lightfoot celebrates completion of Terminal 5 at O’hare International Airport

Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa grant to drive electric mobility shift in 7 African countries
Battery-only electric passenger cars: +76% in Europe in 2021
UK drivers warned to keep eye on pump prices
Biden presents work on Baltimore tunnel, 72,000 new jobs expected
2022 Corruption Perceptions Index: Corruption levels remain at standstill

Trending Now

Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa grant to drive electric mobility shift in 7 African countries

Mayor Lightfoot celebrates completion of Terminal 5 at O’hare International Airport

South Africa authorises roll out of COVID-19 boosters to fight Omicron variant

After 1,400km long search missing radioactive capsule from Rio Tinto found in Australia


UK ready to boost CPTPP’s economic clout, says Trade Minister on Asia-Pacific visit

Commission approves €1.6 billion Romania measure to capitalise new investment and development bank
UK Government backing helps launch world first self-driving bus
Commission approves €104 million Croatian scheme to support energy-intensive companies
Canada invests in BHP project to develop world-leading low-emissions potash mine
New York: Over $22 million awarded in Round XII of Regional Economic Development Council Initiative

Today We Recommend

Over half of FCA staff considering leaving their jobs


Novartis Q4 income declined 91 percent

GM and Lithium Americas to develop U.S. lithium production through $650 million deal

Biden presents work on Baltimore tunnel, 72,000 new jobs expected


TotalEnergies starts its fourth solar power plant in Japan

HVS awarded share of £6.6m government funding to develop world’s first self-driving hydrogen HGV
GM and Lithium Americas to develop U.S. lithium production through $650 million deal
Dole announces sale of its fresh vegetables division to Chiquita subsidiary Fresh Express
ExxonMobil awards FEED for world’s largest low-carbon hydrogen facility
Metronet begins construction of Daytona’s multi-gigabit 100 percent fiber optic network, will hire


Exothera appoints Darren Leva as chief business officer

Vesta taps Shimon Steinmetz as CFO
Bruno Ultra Barcelos appointed managing director of Ethypharm UK
Syntach names Patrick NJ Schnegelsberg as new CEO
Chiesi appoints Giuseppe Accogli as new group CEO
Foresters Financial Canada president Henry Auyeung to retire


UK house prices continued to fall in January

Italian economic growth stronger than expected in 2022
UK shop prices record high, peak still to come
GDP up by 0.1% in euro area and stable in EU
Portuguese economy sees fastest growth for 35 years in 2022
Canada's real GDP edged up 0.1% in November


Caterpillar Q4 profit decreases

Novartis Q4 income declined 91 percent
GSK Q4 profit climbs
Phillips 66 Q4 earnings $1.9 billion
McDonald's Q4 profit increases
Pfizer Q4 profit increases


Micromanaging is the worst enemy of efficiency and teamwork

Niger set to monetize massive gas reserves through Saharan natural gas pipeline
Putting the brakes on EV folly that choked the market
Oil discovery in Kavango Basin may mean huge benefits for Namibians
Cape Town and Dubai battle over Africa's energy future
Is America going to lose its superpower status?


Ukraine opens Canadian, Serbian markets for export of livestock products since year beginning

Egypt intends to buy more wheat from Russia, working on system to pay in rubles
Rosselkhoznadzor stopped shipment of infected oats from Irkutsk to Mongolia
Philippines: ORION Program targets to perk up onion industry, increase domestic supply
Belarus lifts restrictions on food exports to neighboring EU countries
Argentina added new market: Algeria enabled export of meat with bone


Lucky CEO means bad luck for hiring company

Product images could boost food pantry use
The madness of fast service: I want it now!
How to build a resilient brand
Only 32% of employees believe their pay is fair
Corporate duty waivers limit organic company growth and innovation


AG for District of Colubia: $1,950,000 available for eligible Drizly drivers as result of tip-theft investigation

North Carolina: 52 stores pay fines for price scanning errors in 33 counties
EAO issued third fine for Coastal GasLink project
Dutch central bank fines cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase 3.3 mln euros
Bloomberg to pay $5 million for misleading disclosures about its valuation methodologies for fixed income securities
Italy fines Yoox with over 5 million euro for misleading prices and limitations of right of withdrawal



La Chandeleur in Paris: Crêpe Day for all of you

Tru by Hilton Monterrey Fundidora hotel opens in Mexico
IntercityHotel Berlin Airport BER opens
Art After School, the perfect way to spark imagination in your child
The world's biggest food fair in Berlin you don't wanna miss
Largest antiques show comes to small Texas town


Honda Pilot TrailSport, fully equipped SUV with great ground clearance

2024 Corvette E-ray, electrified 4WD
Jaguar I-PACE is now more distinctive
2023 Toyota Prius expected this January
2023 Lincoln Corsair, advance features and ActiveGlide
Lamborghini Huracán Sterrato, first super sports car for any terrain


Curved sofas, elegant and gentle

Solios watches, from nature to luxury
Coats of faux fur, but not of faux style
Redifining kitchen space and experience with workstations
Dinning sofas, a soft addition to a modern dinning table
Patchwork carpets, vintage Persian carpets made with unparalleled skill


Harman Luxury Audio introduces new JBL Classic Series

KEF KC62, audio excellence and design ingenuity
Panasonic announces flagship OLED TV MZ2000
McIntosh MC451, 150 Watt vacuum tube and 300 Watt solid state amplifier
Headonia 2A3, luxury headphone amplifier that comes with gloves
ASUS launches ExpertBook B9 for executives


South Africa authorises roll out of COVID-19 boosters to fight Omicron variant

FDA approves Orserdutm for patients with advanced or metastatic breast cancer
Indonesia to start rolling out COVID-19 vaccination for children under 6
Ipsen receives CHMP negative opinion for Palovarotene as treatment for fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva in EU
Once-daily Sotyktu gets positive opinion as treatment for adults with moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis
EMA update on shortages of antibiotics in EU


Webb telescope catches early galaxy formation in action

Straigh and gay men both prefer masculine men for important jobs
Green comet to visit Earth after 50,000 years
Astronomers captured spectacular, ongoing collision between at least three galaxy clusters
NASA system predicts small asteroid to pass close by Earth this week
NASA, Pentagon developing nuclear-powered rocket for Mars