Danske Bank whistleblower says he was offered hush money

Louis Ashworth
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Wilkinson was head of Danske Bank’s trading unit in the Baltics between 2007 and 2014 (Source: Getty)

The whistleblower at the heart of a widening money-laundering scandal centred on Danske Bank has claimed the Danish bank tried to pay him to keep silent, and implicated a major European lender, reported to be Deutsche Bank, and two US banks in having handled suspect funds.

Howard Wilkinson – head of Danske Bank’s trading unit in the Baltics between 2007 and 2014 – made the claims to a Danish parliamentary hearing, which is looking into payments totalling €200bn (£178bn) that were made through the lender’s Estonian branch.

Wilkinson, who is British, said payments totalling $150bn (£117bn) had been made through a European lender, which he refused to identify.

“I would guess that $150bn went through this particular bank (the large European bank) in the US,” the Briton said. Bloomberg, Reuters and the Financial Times reported the bank in question was likely to be Germany’s Deutsche Bank, while sources told Reuters that JP Morgan and Bank of America were the other lenders who cleared dollar transactions for Danske’s Estonian branch. All three banks declined to comment.

The scandal over Danske has exploded globally, with inquiries underway in Denmark, Estonia, the UK and the US. The Danish lender has acknowledged its branch in Tallinn moved nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars – much of it from potentially illegal activity – out of Russia and into the global banking system. Danske’s chair and chief executive have both been ousted as part of the fallout.

The US Department of Justice has asked Bank of America, JP Morgan and Deutsche about their parts in the scandal.

Wilkinson said he had been offered money by Dankse to not speak out after raising concerns. He expressed doubt that investigations would lead anywhere.

“We are now here at the back-end of 2018 talking about dirty money from 2007 to 2015, there is no chance in the world… that any of that money is ever going to be tracked down and that any criminals lose a single cent,” he told Danish MPs, in his first public appearance since the scandal first emerged.

He claimed there was a “curious lack of interest at senior management level” in investigating the branch’s money-laundering controls, following a warning in April 2014.

Danske’s interim chief executive, Jesper Nielsen, has encouraged anyone with information about the scandal to speak to the authorities.