10 detained in Estonia over massive money laundering

HELSINKI (AP) — Ten former employees of the Estonian branch of Danske Bank have been detained in connection with a probe into a major money laundering scandal that allegedly involved money from Russia and former Soviet states.

Estonia’s Prosecutor General Lavly Perling said Wednesday the employees were mainly Danske Bank client managers suspected of knowingly assisting large-scale money laundering that involves Azerbaijan and Georgia, two former Soviet republics.

One of the persons is suspected also of taking bribes, another of abetting bribes.

“These people were mostly customer relationship managers whose job it was to notify of money laundering cases, to prevent them,” Perling told reporters at a news conference in Tallinn.

Advertisement

All of the ten are suspected of knowingly enabling Danske Bank’s customers of transferring dirty money.

Perling said the investigation into the case — part of a wider ongoing investigation into Danske Bank’s Estonia branch — was launched in November 2017 and involves transactions up to 300 million of euros ($342 million).

Wednesday’s case deals with two separate criminal schemes that allegedly took place between 2011 and 2013. One dealt with financial fraud in Georgia and another one with tax fraud in Azerbaijan, Prosecutor Marek Vahing said.

Aivar Alavere, director of Estonia’s Central Criminal Police, identified one of the suspects as Juri Kidjajev, the former head of private and foreign banking unit at Danske Bank’s Estonian branch. Kidjajev could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Danish bank admitted in September that some 200 billion euros ($227 billion) had flown through accounts at its Estonian branch from 2007 to 2015, following reports of transfers, including from family members of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Separate major investigations have been launched in Denmark and Estonia, leading to a major shake-up at Denmark’s second largest bank, including the resignation of Danske Bank’s CEO.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.