New leaks show 1.3m transactions involving mainly tax haven shell companies
Shares in European banks were hit as revelations from the Troika Laundromat investigation raised new questions about the extent of their involvement in the movement of suspicious funds from Russia into Europe.
Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International, Finland’s Nordea Bank and Germany’s Deutsche Bank have been drawn into the widening money laundering allegations, which began with revelations about the alleged Russian capture of the Estonian branch of Danske Bank. The Danish lender has lost half of its market value since claims about its Baltic operations first surfaced.
The latest revelations centre on one of the largest banking information leaks: some 1.3m transactions involving 238,000 customers, most of which were tax haven shell companies with accounts at Lithuania’s Ukio Bank. The data was obtained by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and 15min.lt, and shared with the Guardian and other media.
Investigations into Danske and other banks are under way in the Baltic states, the US, the UK and the Nordic countries, but almost daily revelations suggest there are more surprises to come on the scale of the misconduct.
Raiffeisen led declines in European banking shares on Tuesday, dropping up to 15%, after Addendum reported that the anti-corruption campaigner Bill Browder had filed a complaint to Austrian prosecutors, saying managers ignored warning signs that would have helped stop the laundering of funds from Russian criminal activity.
The filing lists payments totalling $634m (£482m) that went from accounts at Ukio and Danske’s Estonian unit to Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich AG, then the main owner of Raiffeisen Bank International. The bank said it has started an investigation.
Browder has spent the past decade building cases against banks for laundering following the death in a Russian jail of his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who helped uncover a $230m fraud against the Moscow tax office.
More than $889m went from Deutsche Bank to accounts at Ukio and other banks which featured in the Laundromat leak between 2003 and 2017, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.
The revelation prompted a 1.4% share price fall. Deutsche Bank, in written comments, said it always cooperates with authorities and regulators worldwide and that as a correspondent bank it has only limited access to information about the customers of the respondent bank.
Nordea Bank allegedly handled about €700m in potentially dirty money, some of it linked to the Magnitsky case, according to Finnish broadcaster YLE on Monday. Shares in Nordea fell 6.5% Monday, before the screening of YLE’s investigation.
Nordea’s chief riskofficer, Julie Galbo, said in an interview late on Monday that much of the allegations were already known publicly and the bank was trying to establish whether any were new. Any suspicious behaviour would be reported to the authorities, she said.
A picture is forming of Nordic banks that, often via their Baltic units, became hubs for Russian criminals who channelled funds to the west.
“The stream of scandals coming out of the Baltic states is remorseless,” said Tom Keatinge, a money laundering expert at the Royal United Services Institute thinktank. “This is a systemic weakness in the global financial system that has been exploited primarily across the former Soviet states.”