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Danske Bank pleads guilty to fraud on US banks

    • Largest Bank in Denmark Agrees to Forfeit $2 Billion

WASHINGTON, USA – Danske Bank A/S (Danske Bank), a global financial institution headquartered in Denmark, pleaded guilty Monday and agreed to forfeit $2 billion to resolve the United States’ investigation into Danske Bank’s fraud on US banks.

According to court documents, Danske Bank defrauded US banks regarding Danske Bank Estonia’s customers and anti-money laundering controls to facilitate access to the US financial system for Danske Bank Estonia’s high-risk customers, who resided outside of Estonia – including in Russia. The Justice Department will credit nearly $850 million in payments that Danske Bank makes to resolve related parallel investigations by other domestic and foreign authorities.

“[Today’s] guilty plea by Danske Bank and two-billion-dollar penalty demonstrate that the Department of Justice will fiercely guard the integrity of the US. financial system from tainted foreign money – Russian or otherwise,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “Whether you are a US or foreign bank, if you use the US financial system, you must comply with our laws. We expect companies to invest in robust compliance programs – including at newly acquired or far-flung subsidiaries – and to step up and own up to misconduct when it occurs. Failure to do so may well be a one-way ticket to a multi-billion-dollar guilty plea.”

“Danske Bank lied to US banks about its deficient anti-money laundering systems, inadequate transaction monitoring capabilities, and its high-risk, offshore customer base in order to gain unlawful access to the US financial system,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “[Today], Danske Bank accepted responsibility for defrauding US financial institutions and funneling billions of dollars in suspicious and criminal transactions through the United States.

“As part of its guilty plea, Danske Bank will forfeit over $2 billion and implement significant changes to its compliance program and AML controls. This coordinated resolution with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Danish authorities sends a clear message that the Department of Justice stands ready to work with our partners around the world to investigate corporate wrongdoing and hold bad actors accountable for their criminal conduct.”

“For years, Danske Bank lied and deceived US. banks to pump billions of dollars of suspicious and criminal funds through the US financial system,” said US Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York. “In doing so, Danske Bank, the largest bank in Denmark, deliberately disregarded US law of which it is well aware, facilitated the laundering of criminal and suspicious proceeds through the United States, and placed the US financial network at risk, all in the name of its bottom line.

“The bank is now being held to account. For its years-long criminal conduct, today Danske Bank pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bank fraud, will forfeit over $2 billion, and will implement and maintain a revamped compliance program and AML controls. Banks and other financial institutions around the world should heed this message: If you want to use the US financial system, you must play by the rules. If you don’t, we will hold you accountable.”

“Danske Bank’s guilty plea for defrauding US banks should serve as a stark warning to others that we will uncover the truth and deliver accountability,” said FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate. “The FBI, working with international partners, will vigorously investigate any institution, wherever based, which is engaged in manipulating US financial systems to enable money laundering. The FBI remains committed to safeguarding our national and economic security from threats which could cause harm to American institutions.”

According to admissions and court documents, between 2008 and 2016, Danske Bank offered banking services through its branch in Estonia, Danske Bank Estonia. Danske Bank Estonia had a lucrative business line serving non-resident customers known as the NRP.

Danske Bank Estonia attracted NRP customers by ensuring that they could transfer large amounts of money through Danske Bank Estonia with little, if any, oversight. Danske Bank Estonia employees conspired with NRP customers to shield the true nature of their transactions, including by using shell companies that obscured actual ownership of the funds. Access to the U.S. financial system via the US banks was critical to Danske Bank and its NRP customers, who relied on access to US banks to process US dollar transactions. Danske Bank Estonia processed $160 billion through US banks on behalf of the NRP.

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