U.S. Embassy seeks meeting with Swedish watchdog on Swedbank

February 28, 2019

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – The U.S. embassy in Sweden has asked the country’s financial watchdog FI for a meeting to discuss allegations about Swedbank’s involvement in a Baltic money-laundering scandal.

The move raises questions whether the U.S. authorities will seek to investigate Swedbank.

A FI spokesman said on Thursday it had received a letter on Feb. 27 from the embassy asking to discuss Swedbank in relation to the money laundering allegations, and that the watchdog was “taking care of the matter according to our routines”.

Swedish and Estonian financial watchdogs opened a joint investigation this month following a media report linking Swedbank to the Baltic money laundering scandal involving Danske Bank.

Danske is being investigated in five countries, including the United States, over some 200 billion euros ($227.62 billion) of suspicious payments from Russia, ex-Soviet states and elsewhere that were found to have flowed through its Estonian branch.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Department of Justice (DoJ) are running parallel probes into Danske over the suspicious payments.

Analysts have said an investigation by the U.S. authorities could put Swedbank shares under more pressure. The bank’s shares have lost a fifth of their in value since the report first surfaced.

Swedbank, the U.S. embassy in Stockholm and the SEC declined to comment, while the DoJ did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Swedish daily Dagens Industri, which first reported on the U.S. embassy letter on Thursday, quoted it as saying that the meeting was for a briefing on Swedbank and the watchdog’s actions. The FI spokesman declined to comment on this.

Swedbank is the largest bank in the Baltics with around 3.3 million retail customers and around 300,000 corporate customers. The Baltics accounted for just under a fifth of Swedbank’s revenue in 2018.

(Reporting by Esha Vaish and Johan Ahlander in Stockholm and Michelle Price in Washington; Editing by Jan Harvey and Jane Merriman)

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