The banks in question are DNB and Nordea, which in 2017 merged their Baltic operations to form a new bank called Luminor which is still a major player in the Baltic banking sector.
"Confidential banking documents obtained by OCCRP show how DNB and Nordea, ignoring risks and red flags, banked shady clients at their Baltic branches as they shifted billions in suspicious transactions," said the OCCRP.
"OCCRP has now obtained two never-released audit reports that found billions of dollars may have been laundered through Nordea and DNB banks before the merger. The reports, concluded in May 2019 by a team of internal auditors and by U.S.-based consulting company Alvarez & Marsal, combed through a decade’s worth of records covering 1.6 trillion euros of transactions in the six banks that had merged," the OCCRP added.
The first audit identified 3.9 billion euros of problematic transfers, including some potentially linked to financial crime schemes, while a further 17.3 billion euros warranted more investigation.
"The auditors’ findings detailed dozens of shady clients that had banked with Nordea and DNB, including suspected money launderers and Russian oligarchs," the OCCRP said.
The report is a collaboration of journalists in several countries, including Re:Balica's Inga Springe and Guna Gleizde of LNT's "Nothing Special" investigative show and includes case studies from each of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.
Of more than 100 high-risk customers covering 7.7 billion euros that Luminor’s auditors flagged for further investigation, Latvian DNB and Nordea banks banked 52. At least 17 of these clients were later dropped by Luminor, the report says.
Among those dropped as recently as May 2019, long after the auditors had concluded their work, were the Russian oligarchs (now sanctioned by Ukraine), Mordashov and Mazepin.
The OCCRP notes that both at the time and today, the banks involved maintain that they were fully compliant with all anti-money laundering legislation.
Re:Baltica has a Latvian-language report of its findings and the English-language report from the OCCRP is available at: https://www.occrp.org/en/investigations/leaked-audits-show-nordic-banks-dnb-nordea-ignored-money-laundering-red-flags-for-years