March 27, 2019 / 10:30 AM / 4 months ago

Denmark to bolster financial regulator after Danske scandal

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark’s financial watchdog will get more money, staff and powers under a deal agreed by lawmakers on Wednesday aimed at strengthening efforts to tackle finance crime in the wake of a money laundering scandal at the country’s biggest bank.

FILE PHOTO: General view of the Danske Bank building in Copenhagen, Denmark, September 27, 2018. REUTERS/Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen/File Photo

However, Danish business minister Rasmus Jarlov said it could take “a good while” before the financial prosecutor might be ready to open a potential court case against Danske Bank.

Denmark’s reputation as one of the least corrupt countries in the world has taken a big hit from Danske’s admission that 200 billion euros ($226 billion) of suspicious transactions flowed through its Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015.

The bank is under investigation in the United States, Denmark, Estonia, France and Britain.

Under a deal agreed by a broad majority of parties in the Danish parliament, the country’s financial supervisory authority (FSA) will get 48 million Danish crowns ($7.25 million) extra funding each year, Jarlov told reporters in Copenhagen.

That will allow the watchdog to double the number of people working to fight money laundering to 24, he added.

The FSA will also get the right to fine banks that violate money laundering laws, and to temporarily place an independent observer on the board or anti-money laundering unit of a bank in case it suspects any problems.

In addition, large Danish banks will get a comprehensive money laundering inspection from the FSA during 2019, Jarlov said.

“We need a stronger and more aggressive financial regulator,” the minister said.

“Procedures around the Danske Bank case have not been satisfactory.”

The Danish financial watchdog has been criticised for its handling of the Danske scandal, and for key staff shifting between banks and the regulator.

“In the case of Danske Bank, we’ve seen how authorities sent letters back and forth for seven or eight years before it was stopped. That is unacceptable,” Jarlov said.

Former FSA chairman Henrik Ramlau-Hansen, who had served as finance chief at Danske for five years before joining the FSA in 2016, stepped down in May last year.

The deal agreed on Wednesday prohibits the chairman and deputy chairman to have worked at financial institutions for five years prior to joining the FSA.

Since the Danske scandal surfaced last year, the bank has replaced its CEO and chairman, pulled out of Russia and the Baltics, boosted compliance efforts and promised to donate 1.5 billion Danish crowns ($230 million) to fight financial fraud.

($1 = 6.6215 Danish crowns)

Reporting by Teis Jensen and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Toby Chopra and Mark Potter

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