By Anne Kauranen
HELSINKI (Reuters) – Nordea, the Nordic region’s largest bank, handled some 601 million pounds ($790 million) in suspicious transactions between 2005 and 2017, Finnish broadcaster Yle reported on Monday, citing leaked documents.
Yle, part of a group of media companies working on wider allegations of money laundering in the Baltics linked to Russia, said the money originated from companies registered in tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands, Panama or Belize.
The leak did not reveal if Nordea, whose Nordic rivals Swedbank and Danske Bank face allegations over a money-laundering scandal in Estonia, had reported the alleged suspicious transactions to authorities, Yle said.
Shares in Nordea fell almost 7 percent after Yle said it would air allegations of money-laundering through the bank, but later recovered some of their losses to trade down 3.3 percent.
Nordea said it had no immediate comment when the allegations were published online by Yle and Danish newspaper Berlingske, also part of the investigative media consortium.
Earlier, Nordea had said it was aware of the upcoming report and had been in dialogue with Yle.
“These are all issues that we have seen and commented on before and are therefore in line with previous statements made on AML (anti- money laundering) issues,” it said before the release of the full report.
Nordic financial watchdogs said in October they had received documents from Bill Browder’s Hermitage Capital, alleging Nordea breached its responsibilities under anti-money laundering laws.
Nordea said at the time it was working with authorities and had reported all suspicious transactions.
Casper von Koskull, its CEO, is due to appear on Finnish TV at 1900 GMT, along with Pekka Vasara, head of money-laundering investigations at the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation.
The Finnish Financial Supervisory Authority told Reuters it would need to investigate the allegations further before being able to comment on them.
“Another day, another bank, new allegations,” investment bank KBW, which has an Underperform rating on Nordea stock, said in a note to clients.
Danske, Denmark’s largest lender, is already being investigated in five countries over some 200 billion euros of suspicious payments from Russia, ex-Soviet states and elsewhere that were found to have flowed through its Estonian branch.
And Swedbank is under investigation by Estonian and Swedish regulators after a television report last month alleged money laundering could have occurred in at least 40 billion Swedish crowns (3 billion pounds) moved between Baltic accounts at Swedbank and Danske between 2007 and 2015.
News of the Yle report on Nordea also hit shares in Norway’s largest bank DNB, whose Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian operations merged in 2017 with Nordea’s business in the region to form Luminor, the third-largest Baltic bank.
However, Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, which is part of the investigative media group, said DNB was not involved.
“We have not been contacted by Yle,” a DNB spokesman said, while Norway’s financial regulator was not immediately available to comment on the situation.
Nordea and DNB agreed to sell a 60-percent stake in Luminor to a Blackstone private equity consortium for 1 billion euros in September and said the deal was expected to close during the first half of 2019.
Blackstone was not immediately available for comment.
(Additional reporting by Johan Ahlander and Esha Vaish in Stockholm, Terje Solsvik in Oslo, Stine Jacobsen and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Copenhagen; Writing by Gwladys Fouche in Oslo; Editing by Jason Neely/Keith Weir/Alexander Smith)