Birgitte Bonnesen, the former CEO of Swedbank, is currently the subject of a trial in Sweden after being accused of fraud in relation to the lender's anti-money laundering system in Estonia.
According to Reuters, Ms. Bonnesen, who held the position of CEO from 2016 to 2019, is suspected of providing misleading information on many occasions with the intention of concealing shortcomings in the company's AML standards at its Estonian unit.
Per Samuelsson, Ms. Bonnesen's attorney, claims that she has refuted every accusation. If proven guilty, she may spend up to six years in jail.
It is alleged that the former CEO routinely disseminated "misleading information" concerning Swedbank's connections to the Baltic states, emphasizing that the institution had no issues with money laundering at its Estonian branches.
According to a report from January, the former CEO "intentionally or out of gross negligence" distributed "misleading information about the bank’s measures to prevent, detect and report suspicions of money laundering in Swedbank’s operations in Estonia," according to the Swedish Economic Crime Authority.
Misleading information "gave the wrong impression that Swedbank did not have or had problems with the AML processes in the bank’s operations in Estonia during the years 2007 – 2018," according to Chief Prosecutor Thomas Langrot.
This occurred "even though the former CEO had knowledge of undisclosed information about extensive and serious deficiencies in regarding the AML processes and also information about extensive suspicious transactions/customers based on a money laundering detective in an Estonian business," Mr. Langrot continued.
"The preliminary investigation also shows that there was a clear strategy from, among others, the CEO that the problems regarding the AML processes in the Estonian business would not come to market. Another word for this is that there is evidence of a cover-up ," according to Mr. Langrot.
He said that "as President and CEO of the bank, the defendant has intentionally disclosed inside information about the contents of an upcoming episode of the Television Programme Uppdrag Granskning." He stated that "the suspected crime took place at a meeting on February 18, 2019 and was attended by representatives of the largest shareholders in the bank."
The lender admitted that it had made mistakes in the past when it came to fighting money laundering, and the Swedish financial authority fined it a record 4BN Swedish Krona (€369M).
According to Reuters, Ms. Bonnesen declined to respond to reporters outside the court before her trial, and neither her attorney nor the prosecution were available for remark.
For their participation in multi-billion euro money laundering scandals in the Baltics, Swedbank and Danske Bank are both still the subject of criminal investigations by US authorities. Between 2014 and 2019, Swedbank is estimated to have transacted €37 billion in high-risk transactions.
By fLEXI tEAM