Swedbank gives prosecutor permission to question the bank’s lawyer over money laundering scandal

Swedish bank Swedbank has allowed authorities investigating a potential money laundering scandal to interview the lawyer who conducted the internal probe into the allegations.

The decision comes after months of Swedbank refusing the Swedish Economic Crime Authority’s requests to do so.

News about the scandal broke earlier this year regarding suspected money laundering at the bank’s Estonian offices.

Since then the bank has been investigated by authorities in Sweden, the Baltics and the US. The affair has already cost the old CEO and the bank’s chairman their jobs.

The new chairman and Sweden’s former Social Democratic prime minister Göran Persson has taken up the chairman role and has promised full transparency.

In what is seen in Sweden as a sensational admittance of Swedbank’s shortcomings, the bank issued a statement on Tuesday.

“In the past, the bank has not allocated sufficient resources and competence to adequately manage the risk of money laundering by clients and third parties,” it said. “The division of responsibilities within the bank has not been clear enough, and the bank has not always complied with internal policies. Know your customer and risk assessment are areas where Swedbank has had, and still has, shortcomings. This applies both to the Swedish and Estonian operations.”

Swedbank also announced it would waive attorney-client privilege and allow lawyer Erling Grimstad to be interviewed by the authorities.

The decision came after prosecutor Thomas Langrot sent an open letter to the new chairman and the bank’s interim CEO Anders Karlsson last week, repeating the request to speak with Grimstad.

Speaking with Swedish newspaper Expressen, a representative of the owners said, “Göran Persson  wants to clean up at the bank, or call it clean out the shit. That’s just how it is.”

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