On April 17, 2023, Estonia’s State Prosecutor’s Office announced that it charged six former executives in Danske Bank’s Estonia branch with money laundering crimes. Prosecutors allege that, between 2007 and 2015, the six employees – all former relationship managers in the Estonia branch’s foreign banking unit – jointly engaged in large-scale money laundering by intentionally concealing the real owners of potentially laundered funds as well as the origin and nature of those funds. Prosecutors were able to determine from data collected during pre-trial proceedings that the defendants provided money laundering services that amounted to at least $1.6 billion and €6 million.
According to prosecutors, the indictment accuses the defendants of committing eight preliminary crimes in several jurisdictions, including Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Switzerland, the US, and Iran. Prosecutors allege that the relationship managers engaged in “professional money laundering” and essentially created their own money laundering business within the Estonia branch that they kept hidden from the other structural units of the bank. The “money laundering services” allegedly provided by the defendants include advising clients on how to hide the electronic trail of transfers from the bank and selling them legal entities to hide the true owners.
State prosecutor Maria Entsick also indicated that authorities, thus far, have been able to identify and seize nearly €10 million worth of property connected to the scheme.
On January 5, 2023, Danske Bank A/S was sentenced in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York to three years’ probation and ordered to forfeit more than $2 billion for anti-money laundering deficiencies that existed in its Estonia branch between 2007 and 2015. The sentence came shortly after Danske Bank reached a global settlement, on December 13, 2022, with the US Department of Justice, the US Securities and Exchange Commission and Danish authorities and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud in violation of 18 USC § 1349.