After reports of money laundering caused lenders in Estonia and Latvia to close, police said on Friday (May 25) that more than $13 billion (or about €11 billion) was laundered through banks in Estonia between 2012 and 2016. Much of the money was reportedly laundered through bank accounts belonging to non-residents, Reuters reported.
“In 2012, more than €7.3 billion in securities from Russia were processed through the Estonian financial system. The proceeds were transferred to dozens of jurisdictions and thousands of companies for various goods and services,” Estonia’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) wrote in its annual report. Police in Estonia said more money laundering could take place this year with the closure of Russian banks.
The news comes as a few months after reports indicated that a whistleblower inside Denmark’s biggest bank warned the institution that its Estonian branch was being used by members of the Putin family as a front for money laundering. That warning came in 2013. A leaked report allegedly indicated that the leadership at Danske Bank knew “of far more serious conditions than previously stated.” It is also alleged that Danske Bank shut down 20 Russian customer accounts following that whistleblower report. The clients’ identities were kept secret at the time.
Further reports in The Guardian indicated that a group of mostly London-registered firms filed “false accounts.” Investigations indicated that the ultimate owners of one firm and its related partnerships were Russian — but that fact was carefully hidden. “Their identities were hidden behind a series of offshore management firms based in the Marshall Islands and the Seychelles,” the USA TODAY noted.
Danske Bank told the Associated Press that it had done “a thorough investigation to get to the bottom of the events at that time in our Estonian branch,” adding that it had no comments “until the investigation has (been) finalized.”