Danske Bank forbade whistleblower from going to police: lawyer

The lawyer representing Howard Wilkinson, the primary whistleblower in the Danske Bank money laundering scandal, has said the ban enforced a general confidentiality obligation which prevented Wilkinson from speaking to authorities over suspected irregularities.

Danske Bank forbade whistleblower from going to police: lawyer
File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Newspaper Berlingske reported on Wednesday comments by the lawyer, Stephen M. Kohn.

Kohn said that Danske Bank refused during the summer to repeal Wilkinson’s general confidentiality agreement, preventing him from contacting authorities over suspected money laundering.

“Danske Bank’s confidentiality clause forbade Mr. Wilkinson from communicating with police and prosecution authorities. And the bank refused to issue a general permission which would have lifted these prohibitions,” Kohn said in a statement to Berlingske.

“Not until two weeks ago did Danske Bank waive the confidentiality agreement in relation to Mr. Wilkinson’s communications with the Danish prosecution service,” he also said.

But the bank, Denmark’s biggest lender, said it did not agree with the description of events given by Kohn.

“We do not recognise this representation of the events,” Danske Bank senior press officer Kenni Leth told Ritzau in a written statement.

“We have responded positively to all approaches regarding the whistleblower and have stated in writing that the whistleblower was permitted to speak with both Danish and Estonian authorities,” Leth added.

Danske Bank did not give the whistleblower full freedom from confidentiality during the summer because Kohn asked for exception from clauses related to bank secrecy laws, which Danske Bank is not permitted to give, Leth said.

A new request was made two weeks ago asking for exemption from the elements of the confidentiality agreement which the bank is able to grant in practice, he said.

Wilkinson was responsible for Danske Bank’s business operations in the Baltic region from 2007-2014.

He warned the bank of a number of potential irregularities in 2013 and 2014 before leaving his position.

He later acted as an anonymous whistleblower, helping Berlingske to uncover the major money laundering scandal at Danske Bank’s Tallinn branch, which is now being investigated by authorities in Denmark, Estonia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

After Estonian newspapers published his name, Wilkinson decided to make his identity public and will next week appear at hearings at both the Danish and EU parliaments.

READ ALSO: More on the Danske Bank money laundering scandal


Danish police drop money laundering case against Danske Bank directors

Denmark’s economic crime unit SØIK has dropped potential charges for money laundering against three leading former directors of Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest bank, but investigation of the bank itself continues.

Danish police drop money laundering case against Danske Bank directors
File photo: Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

The three directors, Thomas Borgen, Henrik Ramlau-Hansen and Lars Stensgaard Mørch were investigated in relation to a scandal involving large-scale money laundering at the Estonian division of the bank.

Each of the three confirmed to newspaper Børsen that charges have been dropped.

In a written statement to media, SØIK said it had not uncovered “evidence that any individual has shown negligence to such an extent that it can be characterised as gross” and that the law had therefore not been broken.

“For an individual to be convicted under money laundering laws, they must have committed gross negligence. In this case we have conducted a vert comprehensive and thorough investigation with a number of investigative steps,” acting head of SØIK Per Flig also said in the statement.

The bank itself is still under investigation for possible breach of money laundering laws, however, Flig noted.

READ ALSO: US files lawsuit against scandal-hit Danske Bank

No individuals now remain under suspicion in the investigation, meaning SØIK has dropped cases against all leading bank executive who were suspected by police in March 2019.

Around 1,500 billion kroner from foreign customers flowed through the Estonian division of Danske Bank between 2007 and 2015, an investigation found.

A large proportion of that money is considered to be suspicious. The scandal resulted in Borgen’s resignation as CEO and the bank closed its Estonian branch in 2019.

READ ALSO: More on the Danske Bank money laundering scandal