I take no credit at all for spotting this – it’s all down to Timon Molloy, editor and super-sleuth at Money Laundering Bulletin. But my new favourite financial institution is Danske Bank. Now I know what you’re thinking: surely they’re baddies, having been hauled over the coals for facilitating money laundering through their Estonian branch. And indeed the AML picture is not rosy. Many of their clients – who are suspected of laundering up to US$8.3 billion through Danske Bank from about 2008 – were from jurisdictions with poor AML standards, such as Russia, Moldova and Azerbaijan. Danske management thought something was a bit whiffy but only began closing accounts and looking into the allegations in 2013. In October 2017 the French authorities placed the bank under formal investigation. In December 2017 the bank was fined 12.5 million Danish krone (about £1.5 million) by its regulator for AML failings. And in April 2018 Lars Mørch – the executive responsible for international banking since 2012 – resigned.
But what I like – what I really, really like – is this. It’s the page of the Danske Bank website which is devoted to explaining the progress of the money laundering investigation, complete with a timeline and links to official findings. And I know that you are as jaded as I am, and fully expect the bank’s promo people to put the glossiest gloss and the spinniest spin on it all – but we’re wrong. If you open up the FAQs, the answers are refreshingly honest. Did Danske do it? “We cannot draw any conclusions until the investigations have been completed, but unfortunately, there are indications that non-resident customers in Estonia took advantage of weaknesses in Danske Bank Estonia’s control setup and potentially used Danske Bank for money laundering purposes.” What will you do with any money you earned from dodgy business? “We are of the firm opinion that one krone laundered is one too many, and we certainly do not want to support or earn money from such activities.” Why have you dithered about investigating? “On the basis of the knowledge we have today about the extent of suspicious activities, it is clear than we should have acted faster and more forcefully.”
Now that’s the way to apologise. We got it wrong, we should have done better, we will improve.