16 Jan 2020
Officials in the United Kingdom and bankers throughout Scandinavia turned a blind eye to the influx of illicit Russian funds linked to Europe’s biggest money laundering scandals, according to a British financier and anti-corruption activist.
In a recent interview for KYC360’s AML Talk Show, Bill Browder spoke to host Martin Woods about his efforts to fight money laundering and corruption following the death of his Muscovite attorney Sergei Magnitsky in 2009. Russian officials intentionally allowed the then-ailing Magnitsky to die in a Moscow jail after he blew the whistle on a massive tax scheme implicating high-ranking government employees, according to Browder and US officials.
The funds laundered from the tax fraud found their way into Scandinavian financial institutions, including Danske Bank, which admitted in 2018 that it may have processed up to €200 billion in suspicious transactions, according to Browder, who is the CEO and co-founder of Hermitage Capital Management.
“The Estonian branch of Danske Bank had a 400-percent return on equity. In a bank, if you have 15-percent return on equity, you’re walking on air,” he said. “Of course, they knew it was money laundering and fraud.”
The scandal has separately raised questions about the British government’s willingness to crack down on dirty money.
“The largest amount of money from the Magnitsky killing came to the UK and we shared the information with UK law enforcement, which was the same evidence we shared with 16 other law enforcement agencies that opened criminal cases,” Browder said. “The National Crime Agency wrote to us saying ‘we don’t think a domestic investigation into money laundering in the UK is the best way forward.’”
“The person who wrote that letter came to me a year later—he was in charge of the money laundering investigation unit of the National Crime Agency—and said ‘I just want to tell you that I recommended that a case be opened… and I was told in no uncertain terms by a more senior official not to do it.’”
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