Nordea and Handelsbanken, two of the biggest banks operating in the Swedish market have been fined by the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority, Finansinspektionen, for anti-money laundering failures.
Nordea has been fined SEK50m (€5.4m), the maximum penalty allowed, and given a warning after FI said that “there is a high probability that if people have tried to launder money or finance terrorism that they could have done so without Nordea having been able to detect this.”
Handelsbanken was fined SEK35m (€3.75m) and given a “remark” after the Authority said “the bank has not conducted risk assessments for all of its customers or obtained sufficient information about customers and their business relations. The bank’s system for reviewing transactions has also been deficient.”
“Over SEK100bn (€10.7bn) are laundered in Sweden every year,” the Authority said.
“It is extremely important that this societal problem is counteracted by banks doing what they can to prevent criminals from laundering gains from criminal activities or organisations and people from financing terrorism. Banks must evaluate how high the risk of money laundering and terrorist financing is throughout their operation and also evaluate the risks associated with each customer. Where the risk is high, banks must have extra checks for both these customers and their transactions.”
The reason Nordea’s fine was bigger is that it was already warned by the Authority in 2013 for its anti-money laundering failures.
“Nordea received a remark and a high administrative fine as late as 2013 for having breached the money laundering rules and the EU’s sanctions regulation. This decision related to deficiencies other than those referred to here, yet it nonetheless confirms the picture of a bank that has had problems with complying with the money laundering framework,” the Authority said.
In response to the fine, Nordea said it “respected” the Authority’s decision.
“Nordea respects the SFSA´s decision and acknowledges that there have been deficiencies in the bank’s compliance with the AML [anti-money laundering] requirements,” the bank said in a statement.
“Since the review started two years ago Nordea has acted decisively and implemented an ambitious action plan to ensure a satisfactory level of governance, risk management and control.”
Group CEO Christian Clausen said: “We take this decision very seriously. We acknowledge that we initially underestimated the complexity and the resources required to be fully compliant within this area. We have, however, taken significant measures since 2013. Most recently, we further emphasised the strategic importance by making the group compliance officer part of group executive management and we will continue to increase the resources and efforts to ensure that we comply with these very important requirements.”
The bank’s statement added: “The action plan that has been implemented since 2013 to strengthen AML compliance contains more than 500 activities. Among those are for example intensified training of employees, improved risk assessments and investments in new improved transaction monitoring systems.”
“Moreover, Nordea has taken thorough measures to strengthen the central compliance functions that support and monitor the AML compliance work performed in the business.”