Bill Browder, the investor turned exposer of alleged money laundering, has filed a criminal complaint against Swedbank, dragging the largest bank in the Baltics further into a dirty money scandal.
The complaint to Swedish prosecutors and economic crime investigators alleges that the Stockholm-based bank handled $176m connected to an alleged Russian tax fraud uncovered by his former accountant Sergei Magnitsky, who was beaten to death in a Moscow prison in 2009.
Mr Browder, chief executive of Hermitage Capital Management and a prominent critic of the Kremlin, has also filed multiple criminal complaints on money laundering against Danske Bank and Nordea, the largest Nordic bank. Several of them have been turned down by prosecutors, often due to the alleged crimes taking place too long ago.
Swedbank has been sucked deeper into a growing money laundering scandal involving Nordic banks in the Baltic region in recent weeks. A Swedish TV programme last month alleged that it handled $5.8bn of suspicious transactions from Danske.
Swedbank, whose shares fell by 20 per cent after the allegations, has said that it has reported all suspicious activity to authorities. But its chief executive Birgitte Bonnesen, under pressure for her handling of the affair and her communication style, conceded to analysts that there was “a risk” that suspect payments could have slipped through the bank’s systems.
The bank is already under investigation by Swedish prosecutors over whether it broke insider information rules after a local newspaper said it had warned its largest shareholders about the TV programme two days before it aired.
Mr Browder’s complaint alleges that $176m flowed from the failed Lithuanian bank Ukio and Danske to Swedbank accounts, primarily in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania but also in Sweden. He further claimed that the pattern of money flows was similar to that in his criminal complaint filed against Nordea and urged Swedish authorities to conduct a joint international investigation.
A Swedbank spokesperson said: “We have, as far as we know, not yet been able to see the notification’s content or details. Therefore we have difficulty in giving a comment on this. In all of the cases when authorities start investigations, we always co-operate fully, and we see positively on all investigations.”
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