Sweden’s bank lobby calls for common Nordic AML guidelines

The Swedish Bankers’ Association said Nordic lenders should consider developing a set of common guidelines to counter money laundering, as a scandal affecting Denmark’s biggest bank risks spreading across the region.

“There’s a European Union directive and then national laws and regulations issued by authorities, so you could look at the framework in the different Nordic countries and see if there is scope for streamlining the banks’ work against money laundering and terrorist financing through a common platform for the banks,” the association’s head, Hans Lindberg, said in an interview in Stockholm.

The Swedish association will now discuss the idea with its Nordic sister organisations and with its member companies in Sweden, he said.

Danske Bank A/S is facing criminal investigations at home and in the US over one of Europe’s worst-ever money laundering scandals. The Danish lender has admitted that a large part of about US$230 billion (RM961.4 billion) that flowed through its Estonian unit may need to be treated as suspicious. The Nordic region’s biggest bank, Helsinki-based Nordea Bank

Abp, has also been accused of being involved, though on a much smaller scale, while Sweden’s SEB AB has had to move to reassure investors that it’s unlikely to be dragged into the scandal. SEB and Swedbank AB are two biggest lenders in the Baltics.

Nordea’s chief risk officer, Julie Galbo, argues that a multitude of measures across jurisdictions designed to combat the crime can become an obstacle in themselves. “We do face certain legal challenges where we do hope for some kind of help over time from politicians and regulators,” she said.

Under existing European rules, banks faced with suspicious transactions have to find some other reason for blocking a payment or dropping a client, according to Galbo. Banks are allowed only to report concerns to national authorities.

Sweden in 2016 set up a special body, known as the Swedish AntiMoney Laundering (AML) Institute, tasked with providing guidance for financial companies in the interpretation and application of the rules and measures to prevent money laundering and financing terrorism.

“There, we work through the whole money laundering regulation, in order to support our member companies in their effort to be compliant,” Lindberg said.

According to the Swedish Bankers’ Association, an example of where common guidelines would be useful is when banks’ efforts to investigate clients clash with privacy laws. “All banks are working intensely with these issues, and we’re also working on the joint recommendations, which I think the banks will follow. So things can probably be said to be moving in the right direction,” Lindberg said. — Bloomberg