Danske Bank says US probing money laundering claims
Danske Bank said it was being investigated by the US Department of Justice over possible money laundering related to more than $200 billion transferred through the Danish lender's Estonian branch
Danske Bank said Thursday it was being investigated by the US Department of Justice over possible money laundering related to more than $200 billion transferred through the Danish lender's Estonian branch.
Denmark's largest lender is at the centre of a storm of controversy and several inquiries after it said "a large part" of transactions totalling 200 billion euros ($235 billion) at its Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015 were "suspicious".
"Danske Bank has also now received requests for information from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in connection with a criminal investigation relating to the bank's Estonian branch conducted by the DOJ," the bank said.
"We are cooperating with the authorities investigating us as a result of the case. However, it is too early to speculate on any outcome of the investigations," interim CEO Jesper Nielsen said in a statement.
Described by commentators as "the biggest money laundering scandal in Europe," the case shook the Nordic nation's banking sector and forced Danske's chief executive to resign.
Danske Bank -- whose shares were down by almost four percent on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange in afternoon trading on Thursday -- might face US fines, the Danish business daily Borsen said.
"The US authorities have historically slapped heavy fines related to these types of cases so the likelihood of a fine has increased significantly," Mikkel Emil Jensen, analyst at the Danish Sydbank, told AFP.
The announcement comes nearly two weeks after the European Commission called on the European Banking Authority (EBA), a regulatory authority, to probe what happened to the monitoring of Danske's Estonian office.
Britain's National Crime Agency is also probing the activities of UK-based companies with alleged links to the scandal.
- Money from Russia -
In early August, the Danish state prosecutor's office for serious economic and international crime said it too was probing allegations that money, mostly from Russia and other former Soviet republics, which had flowed through the Estonian branch had been laundered.
The allegations are linked to a fraud case exposed by Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was jailed after he revealed the involvement of high-ranking Russian officials in stealing massive tax payments from several companies, including the investment fund Hermitage Capital.
Magnitsky died in 2009 aged 37 after being held in a Russian jail for a year, where he was denied medical care.
The whistleblower who unveiled alleged money laundering at Danske Bank's Estonian branch came forward last month: British national Howard Wilkinson, who headed the lender's market business in the Baltics between 2007 and 2014.
He described how the Estonian branch handled customers associated with top Russian politicians and companies based in Denmark, according to Danish daily Berlingske, which broke the story last year.
The bank was warned for the first time in 2007, but only began to react in 2013, when Wilkinson wrote a report to the management, the paper said.
Since early this year, Danske Bank shares have lost roughly one third of their value.
https://sg.news.yahoo.com/danske-bank-s ... 59735.html
seemslikeadream » Tue Mar 07, 2017 12:37 am wrote:Donald and Ivanka Trump’s phony Baku Azerbaijan hotel was front for Iranian money laundering
Shortly after taking office, Donald Trump abandoned a bizarre hotel project in Azerbaijan which never made any sense to begin with. It was built in an industrial part of town where a hotel wouldn’t be needed. The roads being built to the hotel didn’t even lead to it. And now it turns out the entire hotel project appears to have been little more than an excuse to illegally launder money coming from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
The Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku project was spearheaded by Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, who repeatedly visited the property and posted photos of herself touring it, even though as best anyone can tell the hotel was never going to open or do any business. It appears in hindsight that Ivanka had merely been doing all of this in order to create the outward appearance that the hotel was a legitimate project.
But as it turns out, the hotel deal had been struck with Ziya Mammadov, the corrupt Transportation Minister of Azerbaijan, who has a history of arranging shady real estate projects as money laundering fronts. Mammadov and his family have deep financial connections to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, making it almost certain that the Trumps were knowingly and illegally doing business with Iran. It also seems likely that Trump shuttered the project upon taking office in the hope it wouldn’t be investigated.
Based on established precedent explained this evening on the Rachael Maddow show, the legal responsibility falls on U.S. citizens to be aware of which foreigners they’re doing business with. So even if Donald and Ivanka Trump try to claim ignorance in this instance, it wouldn’t legally get them off the hook. This new revelation comes from The New Yorker today. It may explain why Senator Sherrod Brown asked the U.S. Treasury late last week to investigate the legality of Trump’s foreign financial connections.
http://www.palmerreport.com/politics/az ... iran/1812/Other deals Trump has said he has ended, but are still noteworthy
Until recently, Trump had a deal with the son of Azerbaijan’s transportation minister
Trump Entities Foreign Entities Foreign Power
Trump Donald J. Trump has ownership in a holding company called THC Baku Services LLC, which was incorporated on December, 10, 2014 in Delaware.
That company has ownership in a holding company called THC Baku Services Member Corp. Tap icon which has a management deal with a company in Azerbaijan called Baku-XXI Century LLC. Mammadov That company is run by Anar Mammadov Z mammadov who is the son of Ziya Mammadov, the transportation minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Ivanka azerbaijan 420
In 2015, Trump brokered a licensing deal for a luxury hotel tower in Baku with the son of the Azerbaijan’s transportation minister, Ziya Mammadov. The younger Mammadov, Anar, is viewed by Western intelligence services and analysts as a proxy for his father and the Azerbaijani ruling elite.
Leaked State Department cables described the elder Mammadov as "notoriously corrupt, even for Azerbaijan" and accused him of involvement in highway contracts awarded to a former senior Iranian military official in the Republican Guard. "We assume Mammadov is a silent partner in these contracts," a cable said.
“If you did your due diligence, you’d learn that the minister of transport was one of the more corrupt public officials in Azerbaijan and his son was only in business because of his father,” Richard Kauzlarich, a former ambassador to Azerbaijan, told ProPublica.
The Baku-Trump hotel was not completed, but Trump earned more than $2.8 million in hotel management fees between 2015 and 2016, according to federal financial disclosures.
Trump Organization officials told ProPublica in a statement that the project was plagued with delays for more than a year, prompting Trump to end his “association with this project and reallocate our resources.” (Full statement here.) The Mammadovs did not respond to requests for comment.
https://projects.propublica.org/trump-conflicts/Trump Hotel in Baku Partnered With ‘Notoriously Corrupt’ Oligarch Family With Ties to Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps
BY ROBBIE GRAMERMARCH 6, 2017 - 2:28
Trump Hotel in Baku Partnered With ‘Notoriously Corrupt’ Oligarch Family With Ties to Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps
Conflicts of interest have been a permanent fixture of Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency. But a new report from the New Yorker shines a damning spotlight on one of Trump’s most ethically hazy deals, and one that may leave the Trump Organization open to federal prosecution: The Trump Organization’s work to build and manage a hotel in Azerbaijan in partnership with corrupt oligarchs, themselves apparently linked to individuals tight with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
To build the Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku — a project conceived in 2008, and nearly finished, but never opened to the public — the Trump Organization worked with the family of Azerbaijan’s transportation minister and a powerful oligarch, Ziya Mammadov. The project has plenty of problems — it’s in the wrong part of town, and can’t compete with existing high-end hotels there — but seems likely to have fallen prey to the notoriously lax local ethics for business dealings.
Adam Davidson describes in great detail in his investigative report how Mammadov was known as “notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan,” in a U.S. diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks years ago. He and his family also have close ties to a prominent Iranian business family, the Darvishis, whose members headed Revolutionary Guard-controlled firms that the U.S. government accused of sponsoring terrorism abroad and engaging in illicit activity including drug trafficking and money laundering.
With the Baku hotel deal, the Trump Organization may have violated federal corruption laws, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the New Yorker notes. The heart of the problem seems to be little due diligence before Trump jumped into the project, even though the country is known for being corrupt, his partners were billionaires on a $12,000-a-year-government salary, and corrupt practices were so commonly talked about they litter the State Department cables released by WikiLeaks and featured prominently in a 2014 Foreign Policy piece, “The Corleones of the Caspian.”
“The entire Baku deal is a giant red flag — the direct involvement of foreign government officials and their relatives in Azerbaijan with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Corruption warning signs are rarely more obvious,” Jessica Tillipman, an FCPA expert and assistant dean at George Washington University Law School, told the New Yorker.
“The Trump Organization’s Baku project shows the lack of ‘extreme vetting’ Mr. Trump applied to his own business dealings in corruption-plagued regimes around the globe…. Congress — and the Trump Administration itself — has a duty to examine whether the President or his family is exposed to terrorist financing, sanctions, money laundering, and other imprudent associations through their business holdings and connections,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said in an email to New Yorker.
The Baku hotel isn’t of course the only conflict of interest Trump faces with his sprawling business empire that spans over 20 countries. He pledged to divest himself from his business, ceding oversight of day-to-day operations to his sons Don Jr. and Eric, but retains financial interest in the company. But ethics experts, including the Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub, said Trump wasn’t doing enough to divest his business interests while serving as president. Critics fear Trump could weigh his company’s profits in making policy.
People pay a $200,000 initiation fee to join the Trump-owned Florida Mar-a-Lago resort, and rub elbows with top Trump officials and cabinet members as he installs the White House there every weekend thanks to taxpayer largesse. (Lucky club members can watch real-time national security briefings on an open-air terrace.)
Foreign diplomats are flocking to stay at Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. Several administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, even live there during the week, feeding more money to the Trump brand. The Trump Organization pledged to scrap foreign business dealings in January, but it it’s already violating that deal. Eric Trump flew to Uruguay in January for a business trip that cost the taxpayers nearly $100,000 in security. And Don Jr. was likely paid at least $50,000 to speak at an event in France, an event organized by friends of the Russian government.
American taxpayers aren’t the only ones shouldering the cost of Trump’s business empire. According to the New Yorker, the Azerbaijani government forcibly evicted 30 families from their homes in 2011 to build a project of “crucial government significance.” That project was the still-never-opened Trump Hotel.
http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/03/06/tru ... -mammadov/
The Sporting Corleones of the Caspian
According to The Guardian, The Trump Organization’s business partner on the phony hotel, Anar Mammadov, has been caught up in the Russian money laundering scheme that was being randomly funneled through Scotland to try to avoid suspicion. Mammadov and Ivanka Trump were so closely connected on the phony hotel scam that at one point he posted a photo of the two of them on Instagram, referring to her as his “dear friend.”
Congratulations my dear friend to you and to your family on this historic day!
anarmammadovCongratulations my dear friend to you and to your family on this historic day![/quote]
UK at centre of secret $3bn Azerbaijani money laundering and lobbying scheme
Exclusive: Leaked data reveals thousands of covert payments, including to European politicians and journalists
Mehriban and Ilham Aliyev
Some of the money went towards an international lobbying operation to deflect criticism of Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, pictured with his wife Mehriban outside 10 Downing Street. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Reuters
Luke Harding, Caelainn Barr and Dina Nagapetyants
Monday 4 September 2017 13.00 EDT Last modified on Monday 4 September 2017 17.00 EDT
Azerbaijan’s ruling elite operated a secret $2.9bn (£2.2bn) scheme to pay prominent Europeans, buy luxury goods and launder money through a network of opaque British companies, an investigation by the Guardian reveals.
Leaked data shows that the Azerbaijani leadership, accused of serial human rights abuses, systemic corruption and rigging elections, made more than 16,000 covert payments from 2012 to 2014.
Some of this money went to politicians and journalists, as part of an international lobbying operation to deflect criticism of Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, and to promote a positive image of his oil-rich country. There is no suggestion that all the recipients were aware of the original source of the money. It arrived via a disguised route.
Analysis The Scottish firms that let money flow from Azerbaijan to the UK
Billions of pounds came through two Glasgow-based companies using obscure structure that let owners hide identities
But the revelations once again highlight the use of the lightly regulated British corporate landscape to move large sums of money around, beyond the purview of regulators and tax authorities. Seven million pounds was spent in Britain on luxury goods and private school fees.
The cash, contributed by an opaque array of paymasters in Azerbaijan and Russia, travelled to the British companies – all limited partnerships registered at Companies House in London – via the western financial system without raising red flags. One of Europe’s leading banks, Danske, processed the payments via its branch office in Estonia.
Danske Bank said “money laundering and other illegal practices” had taken place. It first noticed the irregular payments in 2014. Estonia’s financial regulator said systems designed to stop money laundering at the branch had failed.
The scheme has been nicknamed the Azerbaijtani Laundroma. Confidential banking records were leaked to the Danish newspaper Berlingske and shared with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), the Guardian, and other media partners. The data covers a 30-month period. It may show the tip of an iceberg.
The leaked bank records show multiple payments to several former members of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly, Pace. One is Eduard Lintner, a German ex-MP and member of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats. Another is the Italian former chair of the centre-right group in Pace, Luca Volontè.
The payments came at a time when Azerbaijan was under fire for arresting human rights activists and journalists, and for holding rigged elections. The regime sought to blunt criticism from Europe and the US by allegedly bribing delegates in what has been called “caviar diplomacy”.
This intensive lobbying operation was so successful that Council of Europe members voted against a 2013 report critical of Azerbaijan.
Everything you need to know about the Azerbaijani Laundromat
Lintner stood down as an MP in 2010, but remained a firm supporter of Azerbaijan. He founded the Society for the Promotion of German-Azerbaijani Relations in Berlin, which received €819,500 (£755,000). One €61,000 payment was made two weeks after Lintner returned to Berlin from a trip to Azerbaijan where he monitored the country’s 2013 presidential election. He said the poll was up to “German standards” – in direct contrast to official election observers who found “significant problems”.
Lintner says he received the money for his society, did not personally benefit, and was not an MP or Council of Europe member at the time. An Azerbaijani NGO paid for his election trip, he says. He says he has no knowledge of the original source of the payments received.
Luca Volontè. Photograph: Vano Shlamov/AFP/Getty Images
Details of cash given to Volontè emerged in 2016 and caused outrage. He received more than €2m in instalments via his Italian-based Novae Terrae foundation. Prosecutors in Milan have indicted him for money laundering and corruption.
Volontè denies wrongdoing. He is seeking to have the case thrown out.
The data also shows money being paid via the British companies to Kalin Mitrev, a Bulgarian appointed last year to the board of the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Mitrev received at least €425,000 for private consulting work from a local Azeri company, Avuar Co. He acknowledges the payments and says they were for legitimate business consultancy. He denies all knowledge of the conduit used to execute them or the original source of the funds.
“All the income, generated by activities in different countries, was duly reported and taxed in my country of residence, Bulgaria,” Mitrev said. His consultancy work stopped when he joined the London bank, he said.
The revelation that her husband consulted for an Azeri company might prove awkward for Mitrev’s wife, Irina Bokova, who is the director general of Unesco. Bokova has bestowed one of Unesco’s highest honours, the Mozart Medal on Azerbaijan’s first lady and vice-president, Mehriban Aliyeva. She also hosted a photo exhibition at Unesco’s headquarters in Paris, entitled Azerbaijan – A Land of Tolerance. The Heydar Aliyev foundation organised the event.
Asked by the Guardian whether there was a conflict between her husband’s work and her UN role, she strongly denied this, saying she had no knowledge of her husband’s business affairs. “As a director general of a UN agency, my duty is to develop sound working relations with all members of the organisation in conformity with the policies set by member states. Azerbaijan is not an exception in this respect.”
“I am immensely proud of my determined pursuit of the mandate of Unesco, including in the area of human rights, freedom of expression and the safety of journalists.”
Large sums from the scheme were spent on lobbying. In 2014 Eckart Sager, a former CNN producer based in London, received nearly €2m from the British companies. His PR company is linked to articles that promote the Azerbaijani government and its views. One piece denies wrongdoing by Baku in the Volontè case. Sager did not comment.
Another beneficiary is a London-based Azeri, Jovdat Guliyev, who received 25 payments totalling almost £400,000. Guliyev is a member of the Anglo-Azerbaijani Society, a lobby group co-chaired by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord German. Guliyev did not respond to repeated messages asking him for a comment.
The British connection
The four firms at the centre of the Azerbaijani Laundromat were all limited partnerships registered in the UK. They were: Metastar Invest, based at a service address in Birmingham; Hilux Services and Polux Management, set up in Glasgow; and LCM Alliance, from Potters Bar, Hertfordshire. Their corporate “partners” are anonymous tax haven entities based in the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles and Belize.
Glasgow, where two of the four firms at the centre of the Azerbaijani Laundromat were set up.
L Burke Files, an international financial investigator, said these company structures were “purposefully opaque”. Foreign criminals used Scottish limited partnerships, or SLPs, he said. In June the government announced SLPs would have to name their significant owners, or pay fines, amid evidence of growing fraud.
“No one suspects Scotland. It’s never been on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) list of non-compliant countries,” Files said. “If you are going to launder money it’s probably best not to run it between Russia, Malta and the Cayman Islands. Does Scotland raise a red flag in your mind? No.”
All four British companies are named as payment channels in the Italian prosecution case against Volontè. They have since been dissolved.
The banking data shows that the Azerbaijani fund was used for a wide variety of purposes. More than $2.9bn went to companies, with about $50m paid out to individuals. Many beneficiaries were retail and service firms in western Europe. In all probability, they would have been unaware of the origins of the payments they were receiving.
Some of the 200 money transfers to the UK concerned education. In 2014 £89,800 was transferred to Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate, a private boarding school in York. The school would not identify the pupil or pupils involved or comment.
There were payments to the tuition college Bellerbys and to the ICS international school in London. Bellerbys said it was investigating. The data suggests there were a number of relatively modest bursaries to regime-connected Azerbaijani students studying in Britain, as well as rental deposits on upmarket London flats. Other purchases included designer dresses, luxury cars and legal fees. There is no suggestion the UK recipients should have known about the provenance of the money.
Azerbaijan’s ruling family is not directly named. But the evidence of a connection is overwhelming. Large sums come via the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan. This is the largest bank in an oil-wealthy country, and yet earlier this summer it filed for bankruptcy protection in New York. The defence and emergency situations ministries in Baku all chip in cash.
The scheme was used to pay for the government’s incidental expenses including the medical bills of Yaqub Eyyubov, Azerbaijan’s first deputy prime minister. There were separate payments to Eyyubov’s son Emin, Azerbaijan’s EU ambassador, and to the president’s press secretary, Azer Gasimov.
Business partners of the US president, Donald Trump, in a project to build a luxury Trump Tower in Baku also appear in the Laundromat scheme.
The hotel’s local developer was Anar Mammadov, the billionaire son of Azerbaijan’s ex-transport minister Ziya Mammadov. At the time the scheme operated, the Mammadovs were one of the country’s most powerful and wealthy families. The Mammadovs’ Baghlan holding company is linked to Laundromat transactions.
Anar Mammadov posts a picture of himself with Ivanka Trump after her father’s US election win
In 2012 the Trump Organisation signed a deal with the Mammadovs to build a 33-floor, 130-metre-high “ultra-modern” skyscraper. In October 2014 Ivanka Trump toured Trump Tower Baku, posting photos of the unfinished building on her Instagram account. The hotel never opened. Trump has since cut his connection with the project. The Laundromat scheme does not link to Trump but raises questions about his choice of business partners.
It is not entirely clear where the money used in the scheme comes from. The Russian government paid $29.4m into the Laundromat via its main weapons company, Rosoboronexport. Several transactions link to another $20bn money-laundering scheme, which operated out of Moscow between 2010 and 2014. The scheme, the Global Laundromat, was exposed in March by the OCCRP, Novaya Gazeta and the Guardian.
A mysterious private firm in Baku, Baktelekom MMC, pays in more than $1.4bn. The firm is what fraud experts call a doppelganger entity. It sounds like the state telecoms firm with the same name but bears no relation to it. It doesn’t have a website. Its function is unclear. According to the OCCRP, Baktelekom MMC is linked to Mehriban Aliyeva. In January the company was let off a $17.4m tax bill.
The Danish bank Danske said it had not been good enough at monitoring suspicious transactions at its Estonian branch. The bank has since “tightened procedures and controls” and “terminated relationships” with some customers.
“We will not accept Danske being exploited for money laundering or other criminal purposes. We will do everything to prevent it from happening again,” it said.
Madis Reimand, the head of Estonia’s financial intelligence unit, said his office had come across the suspicious Azerbaijani cash flows in 2013 while analysing a separate case. “From there we followed the tracks,” he said. “We tried to cooperate with the source country in order to ascertain where the money came from. This, however, didn’t work out.”
Reimand said Estonia’s financial supervisory authority had identified what had gone wrong and taken steps to prevent similar fraud in the future.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/ ... ing-scheme