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Nordea Q3 profits plunge, CEO says bank takes money laundering seriously

Nordea Bank CEO Casper von Koskull said the institution takes the issue of money laundering very seriously, as the bank presented its Q3 results on Wednesday.

Nordean konsernijohtaja Casper von Koskull Nordean kellonsoittotilaisuudessa Helsingin Pörssitalossa 1. lokakuuta.
File photo of Nordea Bank CEO Casper von Koskull. Image: Martti Kainulainen / Lehtikuva

The Nordic's biggest bank has been accused of participating in an international money laundering scheme.

Nordea Bank CEO Casper von Koskull's comments about money laundering were prompted by recent accusations made by London-based financier Bill Browder alleging that Nordea had facilitated the laundering of hundreds of millions of euros.

Browder's investment firm Hermitage Capital Management sent requests to financial regulators across much of the Nordics to examine Nordea's activities, claiming that that some 527 of the bank's accounts had been involved in money laundering schemes.

Von Koskull said the allegations directed against the bank were only accusations at this point, saying that the Finnish authorities have not yet taken a position on the matter.

The CEO said Nordea always actively investigates suspected cases of money laundering and that the bank will do the same in regard to the allegations made by Browder.

He also said that Nordea facilitates nearly two billion transactions every year and that it carries out reviews of hundreds of thousands transactions, thousands of which are sent for further inspection to local regulators.

According to Nordea more than 1,500 of its employees work to prevent financial crimes, while an additional 12,000 of the bank's workers regularly receive training on how to identify signs of such crimes. The bank said it had dedicated some 110,000 hours of employee working time to train staff about financial crimes.

Alleged transactions totalling 350 million euros

Browder's firm Hermitage Capital Management has sent reports about allegedly fishy transactions valued at around 350 million euros to financial regulators in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

Nearly 60 percent of those transactions went to Nordea in Finland, according to the report.

According to Yle, the funds had been transferred to the bank from 150 foreign bank accounts, some of which are registered to companies in tax havens. Before the funds arrived in Nordea's accounts, they passed through two banks in the Baltics - the Ukio Bank in Lithuania and/or Danske Bank's Estonian branch.

Denmark-based Danske Bank has been embroiled in a major money laundering scheme, in which some 200 billion euros is suspected to have been laundered, with the Financial Times characterising it as "the world's biggest money-laundering scandal."

Q3 profits down 21%

Nordea's year-on-year third-quarter profits were down significantly, according to the bank. Profits between the months of July-September were around 866 million euros, while profits in 2017 were around one billion euros.

Von Koskull said the decline was due to difficult market conditions and limited business activity.

The CEO said that Q3 was also an important part of the bank's history because it officially moved its headquarters to Helsinki at the beginning of this month.

"This quarter was a historic quarter for Nordea, as we finalised our re-domiciliation into the Banking Union and Finland. The move is part of Nordea’s overall strategic direction, enabling us to operate in an environment that offers stability, predictability and a level playing field."

"The business model for the Group will not be impacted by the move, but it will help us to increase our focus on further developing the bank, and becoming an even better bank for Nordea’s customers, employees and shareholders," von Koskull said in a release issued Wednesday.

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