LTV De Facto: Swedbank Latvia examined in connection with Magnitsky Act

Financial watchdogs in the USA, Sweden and Estonia have initiated a wide-ranging investigation into the operations of Swedbank, the largest financial institution in the Baltic states, reported LTV's De Facto investigative show November 3.

Investigations involve examining several suspicious transactions over a period of several years. However, Latvian regulators have no plans on investigating Swedbank Latvia, as the bank was already fined a few years ago. Transfers to Swedbank are, however, being investigated under the “Magnitsky Act” by the Latvian State Police, De Facto reported.

Three weeks ago a Latvian delegation headed by Finance Minister Jānis Reirs visited the USA. The visit included a meeting with Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing in the United States Department of the Treasury Marshall Billingslea. In 2018 the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a notice resulting in the closure of ABLV Bank, but this time the discussion centered around Swedbank, which US financial regulators are currently investigating over money laundering charges.

“This investigation is primarily directed toward “Danske Bank” and Estonia,” asserts Reirs.

In the US Reirs also met with the new bosses of the Swedbank parent company.

This week Sweden and Estonia's financial regulators announced the opening of a case against Swedbank. The investigation will determine whether sanctions are to be applied against the bank for inadequately combating money laundering. The regulators opened the case against Swedbank after a report by Sweden’s public broadcaster SVT revealed several suspicious transfers, which have passed through the Baltic subsidiaries.

Swedbank Latvia's last quarterly report revealed an investigation by the State Police Economic Crime Unit, which is likely to be connected to the “Magnitsky Act”.

According to the Swedish media reports Sergei Magnitsky's employer and financier Bill Browder handed in complaints about Swedbank in many countries, including Latvia, alleging involvement in the Russian money laundering scandal.

The State Police Economic Crime Unit replied that they have received the complaint and are investigating the information in connection with other investigations, which began in 2012. “The case investigates the international laundering scheme of illegally acquired financial resources. The investigation is continuing with constant cooperation with the Financial Intelligence Unit of Latvia, the Financial and Capital Market Commission and international law enforcement agencies.

Swedbank explained that it can't publicly discuss client transactions, and that it doesn't know the contents of the complaint.

Since 2016 the bank has implemented regulator recommendations to combat money laundering, and has ceased to provide services to risky clients. Banks are required to report all suspicious transactions to the Financial Intelligence Unit of Latvia.

According to this week's financial regulator reports, the likelihood of sanctions being applied to Swedbank has increased. According to Swedish law, fines can reach up to 10% of a bank's annual income. More clarity should be provided in coming days. Swedbank predicts that the Latvian investigation could be completed by the end of the year, according to information from the State Police.

As previously reported, the Magnitsky Act imposes sanctions on persons suspected of involvement in the death in custody of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was attempting to expose a huge fraud. Latvia's "Magnitsky list", which is similar to those in force in several other countries, is understood to contain 49 persons linked to the Magnitsky scandal.

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