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Report: Major Swedish bank under US investigation for suspicious Russian money transfers

Swedbank (CHG/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Sweden’s public broadcaster has reported that U.S. regulators are investigating one of the Scandinavian country’s largest banks for suspicious financial transactions involving the Russian weapons manufacturer Kalashnikov.

SVT said in a report published on November 20 that one of Kalashnikov’s major shareholders, a Russian oligarch named Iskander Makhmudov, may have channeled more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million) to counterparts at a U.S.-registered affiliate called Kalashnikov USA.

The transfers were handled by an Estonian unit of Swedbank, according to SVT. They allegedly occurred after 2014, when the United States imposed financial sanctions on several major Russian state-owned companies in response to Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula.

U.S. regulators are now looking at whether Swedbank’s handling of the transactions violated those sanctions, SVT said.

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In February, SVT investigative reporters published an internal report that explored other money-laundering allegations against Swedbank. Those revelations led to the firing of the bank’s chief executive and the departure of its chairman and members of the board.

Meanwhile, an internal Swedbank report has allegedly uncovered millions of dollars in suspicious transactions involving Mikhail Abyzov, a former Russian government official who used to be in charge of trying to make the Russian government more transparent.

Appointed in 2012 by then-President Dmitry Medvedev as a top adviser, Abyzov was arrested in Russia earlier this year and charged with embezzlement and related charges.

Abyzov used a network of offshore companies to move nearly $800 million, primarily through Swedbank accounts, according to the report obtained by SVT and the Organized Crime & Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

The report was the result of an internal investigation by Swedbank into the bank’s Estonian subsidiary.

Abyzov’s Swedbank accounts were closed by Swedbank in 2017.

According to OCCRP, one manager at a Swedbank Estonian affiliate was in charge of many of the Abyzov transactions. Immediately after the manager quit at Swedbank, he became the head of a company in Cyprus owned by Abyzov, OCCRP said.

The reports are the latest to highlight the role of major European banks, and their Baltic units in particular, that allegedly handled large volumes of suspicious money transfers, much of which originated in Russia.

Denmark’s largest lender, Danske Bank, is under investigation in several countries, including the United States, Denmark, Britain and Estonia, over suspicious payments totaling 200 billion euros ($220 billion).