Danske Bank Estonia $8bn money laundering scandal: my initial analysis

As some of you may know, I was recently asked by Berlingske Business to review a whole trove of leaked bank statements relating to the Danske Bank Estonia laundromat scandal.

Whilst I cannot comment on individual accounts or transactions (Berlingske will be publishing further stories in the coming days and weeks) I have been allowed to comment more generally on the outcomes of my analysis and that, in itself, is well worthwhile.

The first thing that hit me when reviewing the account statements that were sent to me (it wasn’t all 20 accounts but still amounted to thousands of pages of individual statements!!) was the sheer scale of the operation. There was literally (and I’m using the word in its correct context) millions of dollars a day moving through these accounts.

Even more strikingly, at the end of most days, whatever had come in had been moved out again. And a large number of the entities both remitting and receiving money into these accounts were newly formed, often by the same people as the account holders themselves.

Obviously, we need to remember that this started 10 years ago in 2008 but we’re not talking about the dark ages here. Yes, everyone has become far more aware of money laundering since but this was still the time of the Third Anti Money Laundering Directive and all banks should have had proper controls in place to recognise fairly straightforward suspicious activity such as this. As Berlingske pointed out in their article, about $8.3bn moved through these accounts in seven years (2008 to 2015). That’s well over $1bn a year. Through just 20 bank accounts. All of which were newly formed companies (2006 at the earliest but most 2007). And they all started receiving high levels of credits virtually as soon as they were opened.

You’d have to ask, what sort of business, which has no internet presence, pays no wages, rent, tax or other business expenses, is capable of turning over millions of dollars a year without the slightest sign of web presence or other commercial activity simply by receiving money from one obscure company and paying it to another?

I hope very much, when the dust settles, that these statements, or elements of them, can be put to really good use by forming the basis of case studies and training programmes, which I’d be delighted to deliver to any firm which really wants to tackle the scourge of money laundering.

Watch this space.

And huge thanks to Berlingske Business for both including me and entrusting me with this extraordinary opportunity.

Their original article (in English) can be found at: https://www.business.dk/finans/english-version-new-data-leak-reveals-far-bigger-extent-of-money-laundering