Swedbank pledges to investigate money laundering allegations

A Swedish news report alleged the bank transferred $1.1m from Russian arms dealers to US subsidiary.

    Swedbank pledged it would swiftly investigate the allegations [Ints Kalnins/Reuters]
    Swedbank pledged it would swiftly investigate the allegations [Ints Kalnins/Reuters]

    Allegations of money laundering at Swedish lender Swedbank will be fully investigated by early next year, the bank pledged on Wednesday.

    The bank added that it was unaware of any breaches of United States sanctions, following allegations made by a broadcaster.

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    "If there has been unethical behaviour ... we should, of course, get [to] the bottom of it," Swedbank CEO Jens Henriksson said in a statement.

    "The internal investigation is expected to be concluded in early 2020," he said. And the results will not be kept locked up in a vault, the bank promised: "Conclusions from the investigation will be communicated."

    Henriksson made the statement after Sweden's public service broadcaster SVT reported on Wednesday, in a programme aired on its website, that Swedbank may have violated US sanctions against Russia, citing an unidentified Wall Street source.

    Swedbank, whose shares were down three percent at 08:30 GMT, behind its rivals, said it was not aware of any such violation.

    In its report, SVT alleged Swedbank transferred more than one million euros ($1.1m) from Russian arms firm Kalashnikov Concern to a US subsidiary through the business network of a Russian oligarch who is a shareholder in Kalashnikov.

    Speaking to SVT, Henriksson said: "I'm going to take this information and give it to our investigators and [then] we'll take a closer look at it."

    He declined to confirm the existence of such customers. Kalashnikov's Russia-based parent company has been on a US sanctions list since Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

    "The Bank is not aware of any OFAC violations arising out of the continuing internal investigation," Swedbank said in a statement. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is a part of the US treasury department. 

    Kalashnikov's US-based subsidiary is permitted to sell arms it produces in the US on condition it receives no financial transfers from its Russian parent, according to SVT.

    A Kalashnikov spokeswoman declined to comment on the SVT report, Reuters News Agency reported.

    SEB Group, another Swedish bank named in the investigative journalism programme, said it was already aware of allegations against individuals, and it was already investigating.

    SEB received a list of 194 of its corporate clients from public broadcaster SVT, but announced it had compared the list with its own analysis.

    "The names on the list from Sveriges Television are, in all material respects, covered by the bank's own analysis and do not change the bank's fundamental assessment," the bank said.

    Danske Bank, a rival to both SEB and Swedbank, has also been caught up in an alleged money-laundering scandal.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies