Swedish Regulator Delays SEB Sanction Decision Amid Virus

By Joanne Faulkner
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Law360, London (March 25, 2020, 7:36 PM GMT) -- Sweden's financial regulator said Wednesday it will delay presenting the findings of a probe into lax money laundering controls at Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB until June due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority has been investigating "deficiencies and weaknesses" at SEB and deciding on possible penalties after the lender was dragged into the long-running Baltic dirty money scandal.

The regulator said the economic impact of the virus meant its priorities had shifted. 

"The FSA is delaying the decision due to the effects of the spread of the coronavirus and subsequent re-prioritization within the FSA," it said in a statement Wednesday.

The regulator is instead focusing on measures to strengthen the financial stability of the country. On Tuesday, the watchdog told banks to scrap dividend payments to shareholders so they can channel money into households and businesses.

The probe into SEB's money laundering controls in the Baltics was conducted alongside authorities in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The bank has been linked to the €200 billion ($227 billion) money laundering scandal engulfing Denmark's Danske Bank.

SEB has admitted that billions of euros from "low transparency customers" had flowed through its operations in the Baltics but previously insisted it "has not been systematically exploited for money laundering."

The bank published transaction data in January for the Baltics between 2005 and 2018 that showed it processed almost €26 billion from customers who do not live in Estonia, which it admitted does "not meet today's standards regarding transparency or linkage to authentic business activity."

SEB's compatriot Swedbank was fined a record 4 billion Swedish krona ($385.7 million) by the Swedish regulator on March 19. The regulator said it had found serious AML deficiencies and evidence that Swedbank withheld documents and information that would have revealed the seriousness and scope of the problems.

--Editing by Janice Carter Brown.

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