I've previously talked about the three aspects of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russian probe into the Trump regime: the Trump campaign working with benefit of Russian help, Trump's long history of money laundering, and the obstruction of justice to cover both up. Today we're talking about the second aspect, specifically Russia's money laundering ties to international banks.
I've previously mentioned Cyprus as a long-time haven for Russian money laundering operations and the sordid history of Trump's Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, who was the former Vice Chairman of the Bank of Cyprus. But now we've discovered another major Russian money laundering outlet, this time through Denmark by way of Estonia.
An independent investigation into the money-laundering scandal at Danske Bank found that as much as $30bn of Russian and ex-Soviet money flowed through its Estonian branch in a single year.
The findings, contained in a draft report commissioned by Denmark’s largest bank and seen by the Financial Times, raises questions for Danske’s leadership about who knew, and when, about the sheer volume of foreign money passing through its small Estonian branch.
The report by Promontory Financial, the consultancy, found that up to $30bn was parked in Danske’s Estonian branch by non-residents in 2013, the peak year of a scandal that lasted from 2007 until 2015.
“NRP [non-resident portfolio] transaction volume peaked in 2013 with the number of transactions approaching 80,000 that year, and the transaction volume approaching $30bn,” the independent findings, seen by the Financial Times, stated.
One person close to the investigation said: “It’s a truly breathtaking amount for such a small branch. You can’t have that amount flowing through without it raising questions.”
And Danske Bank has been totally flat-footed by this. They're on the hook for billions in fines, and they don't have the money to pay for it.
Danske Bank A/S says it hasn’t put any money aside to cover potential fines, or other losses, linked to its alleged role in the laundering of billions of dollars over several years.
“We can never tell for sure, obviously, but what we can tell is that we’ve made the assessment and that we’ve concluded there is no basis for making any provisions,” Morten Mosegaard, interim chief financial officer and chief of staff at Denmark’s biggest bank, said in an interview.
The Copenhagen-based lender is the target of criminal investigations for laundering in Denmark and Estonia amid allegations that more than $9 billion in illicit funds from Russia, Azerbaijan and Moldova flowed through its office in Tallinn. Danske has earmarked about 1.5 billion kroner, or $230 million, as what it’s calling a donation to society in an effort to address public indignation.
“We have been pretty precise in letting the market know that this is the full scope of gross income [from the Estonian unit] and then we’re making the assessment at this point in time,” Mosegaard said. “We can’t comment on that until we get to the point where we can make a general disclosure.”
You'd better believe that Robert Mueller's team and the NY Attorney General's office are taking a long, hard look at Danske Bank and its Russian clients.
And possibly some American clients as well.