Danske Bank’s CEO resigned Wednesday after it surfaced the bank had laundered $234 billion through one of its branches in Estonia.
“This is the largest money laundering scandal in European history,” Hermitage Capital Management CEO Bill Browder told Reuters. “Danske Bank is a major bank that sends dollars around the world, [and] I imagine that this will certainly get the attention of the U.S. authorities.”
“Even though I was personally cleared from a legal point of view, I hold the ultimate responsibility,” Danske CEO Thomas Borgen said in a Wednesday statement. “There is no doubt that we as an organization have failed in this situation and did not live up to expectations.”
The 54-year-old Borgen will remain CEO until a new leader is appointed, according to Reuters.
Danske Bank shares doubled after Borgen’s 2013 appointment as CEO, but the company lost more than a third of the value of its shares after July 2017 when accusations that the bank was conducting fraudulent transactions in Estonia and Denmark began to swirl, prompting criminal investigations.
Danske Baltic chief Ivar Pae stepped down in June after which Estonia’s state prosecutor spearheaded an investigation into the bank’s activities. A number of other investigations revealed “criminal activity in its pure form, including money laundering,” according to Reuters. (RELATED: Polygamist Brothers Charged With Laundry Half A Billion Dollars In Renewable Energy Tax Credits)
The bank failed to clean up its act despite repeated criticism from Estonian and other state regulators. After problems at Danske Bank’s Estonian branch arose in early 2014, adequate investigation did not occur and the bank didn’t make sufficient changes to prevent future money laundering. “Risk-appetite and risk control were not in balance,” Estonia’s FSA financial regulator head Kilvar Kessler said in a statement, Reuters reported.
“It is deeply embarrassing that for so many years there have been transactions that should not have taken place. Much of it is expected to be money laundering, and that is simply not good enough by Danske Bank,” Danish business minister Rasmus Jarlov said at a Wednesday press conference.
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