Swedish banks ‘make life easy for terrorists’

Sweden’s financial watchdog has hit two of Sweden’s biggest banks, Nordea and Handelsbanken, with heavy fines for their failure to prevent money laundering.

Swedish banks 'make life easy for terrorists'
Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT
Nordea received a maximum 50 million kronor ($6 million) fine due to the “high probability that if people have tried to launder money or finance terrorism that they could have done so without Nordea having been able to detect this,” the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (Finansinspektionen — FI) said. 
Handelsbanken “has not conducted risk assessments for all of its customers or obtained sufficient information about customers and their business relations”, FI said. The watchdog ordered the bank to pay a 35-million kronor fine. 
More than 100 billion kronor are laundered in Sweden every year, the watchdog said. 

“It is extremely important that this societal problem is counteracted by banks doing what they can to prevent criminals from laundering gains from criminal activities or organisations and people from financing terrorism.” 

SEE ALSO: Banking terrorism funding inquiry starts in Sweden 

Nordea has not complied with the rules for several years, according to FI. 

The Nordic banking giant had not evaluated risks associated with different customer groups and was often unaware whether it even had any high risk customers. 

The financial watchdog also slammed as “extremely substandard” the bank’s automatic system for checking transactions. 

FI said the bank had received a “remark” and was fined in 2013 for similar deficiences but its failure to do anything to properly counteract money laundering meant it was now facing an official warning and the highest possible fine. 


Systems put in place by Handelsbanken were also deficient and meant the bank “ran a high risk of being used by people to launder money or finance terrorism.”


Nordea’s Danish offices raided in money laundering probe

The Nordic region's largest bank Nordea said Monday that Danish prosecutors had raided its offices in Denmark as part of an investigation into money laundering.

Nordea's Danish offices raided in money laundering probe
File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix

The Danish State Prosecutor for Serious Economic and International Crime seized physical and digital material — including emails — from the Copenhagen offices on June 12th, reported the Danish business newspaper Børsen, which first broke the story.

The bank confirmed the raid in a statement to AFP, saying it was carried out in relation to a probe into “compliance with anti-money laundering procedures” at its international branch, which was responsible for non-Nordic customers.

“We are fully cooperating with the prosecution service to ensure that they have access to all relevant information,” said Nordea's Danish head Frank Vang-Jensen.

The bank said that in 2014, when it was refocusing its activities on Nordic countries — and away from Baltic states — it evaluated its customers at the international branch and “exited the customers who didn't meet our criteria”.

The Danish Financial Supervisory Authority then lodged a money-laundering complaint against Nordea in 2016.

In October last year, Sweden's financial crime unit also received a complaint against Nordea, which moved its Swedish headquarters to Finland later that month for tax reasons.

Nordea has set aside 95 million euros to cover potential first-quarter costs related to the money laundering probes.

The investigation comes as Denmark's largest lender Danske Bank is the target of criminal probes in several countries over some 200 billion euros in transfers that passed through its Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015, involving some 15,000 foreign clients.

READ ALSO: Nordea reported to Denmark investigators over money laundering