COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Danish regulators said Thursday that there were "serious shortcomings" in the anti-money laundering operations of Danske Bank' activities in Estonia, following reports this year of money flows from family members of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The authority's head, Jesper Berg, says Danske Bank "responded too late to information" about lacking money laundering measures "and suspicions of customer crime."
Danske Bank was given eight orders and eight reprimands that the bank must fulfill by June 30. Denmark's Financial Supervisory Authority says the way the management handled the case has damaged the bank's reputation.
In February, Denmark's Berlingske daily said a leaked internal Danske Bank report indicated that the management knew "of far more serious conditions than previously stated," and that family members of Putin and Russia's spy agency were using its Estonian branch for money laundering.
The paper added that Danske Bank in 2013 shut down 20 Russian customer accounts following a whistleblower report alleging that its Estonian branch possibly had been involved in illegal activity. The clients' identities were kept secret at the time.
The paper shared details of the scheme with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a group of anti-corruption reporters, and Britain's Guardian newspaper.
Danske Bank said it had earlier concluded that it was not sufficiently effective in preventing the branch in Estonia from potentially being used for money laundering during the period 2007-2015, adding "this was due to critical deficiencies in governance and controls."
"We should have reacted faster and more forcefully," said Danske Bank's chief executive, Thomas F. Borgen. "We need to ensure that it cannot happen again."
Danske Bank said it began investigating its Estonian branch in the autumn of 2017, including a review of customers and transactions, that is expected to be completed by September at the latest.
Last week, Danske Bank said it would scale down its business in the Baltic countries, shortly after Estonia's Financial Supervision Authority voiced similar criticism.
Estonia's financial watchdog had said it suspected Danske Bank's local branch of misleading authorities, adding the agency made inspections at the branch in 2014, during which it found what it called extensive and systematic violations of anti-money laundering rules. It also launched a new investigation that hasn't been completed yet.