Reuters Staff, 08 March 2019
Several European banks are facing allegations of being involved in a Baltic money laundering scandal and failing to prevent tainted Russian money from flowing through their branches across the world.
The scandal first came to light via investigations by U.S. authorities into Latvia’s ABLV bank, which they accused of institutionalized money laundering, and Pilatus Bank in Malta, whose chairman was charged in the United States over money laundering and bank fraud.
The first major bank to face questions, however, was Danske Bank, when Danish newspaper Berlingske said in 2017 a whistleblower had raised suspicions over the origins of billions of euros that had flowed through the Estonian branch of the Denmark’s biggest bank.
Since then, a number of other European banks have been drawn into the scandal by various media organizations and a collective of European news outlets called the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).
Another central player in the saga is Bill Browder, a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin who has successfully lobbied for U.S. sanctions against Moscow over the killing of his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009.
Browder has brought criminal complaints against banks in various countries, including the United States, over alleged money laundering relating to a tax fraud exposed by Magnitsky.