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Sweden's SEB says given list of clients ahead of money laundering broadcast

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By Reuters
Sweden's SEB says given list of clients ahead of money laundering broadcast
FILE PHOTO: The logo for Nordic bank SEB Group is seen at the SIBOS banking and financial conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren   -   Copyright  Chris Helgren(Reuters)

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden’s SEB <SEBa.ST> said on Tuesday it had received a list of 194 of its corporate clients from public broadcaster SVT, a day before a programme airs investigating money laundering in the Baltics that is expected to include information about the bank.

SEB, which has previously said it had found no sign of being systematically used for money laundering although it could not offer guarantees, said in a statement it had compared the names received from the broadcaster with its own internal 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.

Fears SEB could be dragged into a money-laundering scandal that has rocked Nordic rivals Danske Bank <DANSKE.CO> and Swedbank <SWEDa.ST> sent its shares plunging 13 percent on Friday after it said it had been sent questions by SVT’s investigative news programme “Uppdrag Granskning”.

Danske and Swedbank have previously admitted to failings in their money laundering controls in the Baltics.

Shares in SEB were up 1% on the day at 0830 GMT on Tuesday.

SEB, one of the Baltic region’s biggest lenders, said customer relationships had been terminated with about 95 percent of clients whose names were supplied by SVT, and that the bank had reported any suspect activities to financial police.

Frank Hojem, a spokesman for SEB, told Reuters: “There are a handful from the list who are still with the bank and as far as we can see today those clients meet the criteria we have.”

He added, “If we find anything suspicious, or these remaining clients don’t live up to our criteria, we would have to re-evaluate them.”

SVT said in a statement that its broadcast on Wednesday would also include new information about Swedbank. Swedbank declined to comment.

Swedbank said on Nov. 7 that Uppdrag Granskning had given it information and interviewed CEO Jens Henriksson.

SEB said it had strengthened its routines after it was criticised by the Estonian financial watchdog in 2006 over its handling of non-resident clients and received information from an external whistleblower.

“Although SEB historically has lived up to the regulatory requirements, we can with today’s knowledge conclude that neither regulations nor the banking system’s ability have been sufficiently efficient to handle risks of money laundering before 2008,” it said.

“We still need to know what’s going to be in the TV show before we can really understand what this means for SEB,” said Andreas Hakansson, an analyst for Danske Equities.

“What I note is that SEB says it cannot guarantee it isn’t being used for money laundering, which means one of the clear risks here is that SEB will have to spend more money going through what has been happening in the region over the last 15 years, whereas Dankse and Swedbank have already spent significant money doing that.”

SEB’s Hojem said the bank had already been increasing what it spends on compliance, adding: “We presented a new business plan last December which strengthened our AML monitoring. However, we haven’t put a figure on exactly how much and will take it into our investment plan over the coming three years.”

(Reporting by Niklas Pollard, Colm Fulton and Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Simon Johnson and Catherine Evans)