Swedbank chairman quits over money laundering scandal

Mr Lars Idermark said the intense scrutiny of Swedbank was interfering with his job as CEO of a forest-owner association.
Mr Lars Idermark said the intense scrutiny of Swedbank was interfering with his job as CEO of a forest-owner association.

STOCKHOLM • A week after Swedbank fired its chief executive, the lender is parting ways with its chairman as a multibillion-dollar money laundering scandal forces top-level changes.

Mr Lars Idermark has decided to leave Sweden's oldest bank and biggest mortgage lender with immediate effect, Swedbank said in a statement yesterday.

That follows a March 28 announcement that CEO Birgitte Bonnesen had been fired in the wake of the dirty money allegations.

Swedbank is being investigated by the financial supervisory authorities of Sweden and Estonia, as well as the authorities in the United States.

In addition, Sweden's Economic Crime Authority has initiated a criminal probe to look into allegations of gross fraud, amid concerns that Swedbank may have misled the public about the severity of the laundering case.

Mr Idermark said his decision to leave came amid the "recent strong debate about Swedbank and questions about the bank's control of suspicious money laundering in the Baltics".

He said intense scrutiny of Swedbank was interfering with his other job as CEO of a forest-owner association called Sodra.

"Therefore, I have decided that the best alternative is to leave the position as chairman of Swedbank with immediate effect," he added.

Mr Idermark will be replaced by deputy chairman Ulrika Francke, said Swedbank.

But questions remain. Ms Francke, like Mr Idermark, sat on the board for many of the years during which the money laundering is alleged to have taken place.

Some of the bank's most influential shareholders, pension providers Alecta and AMF, have said they may demand an extraordinary shareholders' meeting later this spring to elect a new board.

Ms Bonnesen has been replaced on an interim basis by Mr Anders Karlsson, the bank's former chief financial officer.

The bank is allegedly tied to the US$230 billion (S$312 billion) Danske Bank Estonian laundering scandal.

Swedish broadcaster SVT has reported that the suspicious amounts that flowed through Swedbank's non-resident accounts in Estonia may have exceeded US$100 billion between 2010 and 2016 alone.

Swedbank is the year's worst-performing European financial stock so far, having lost almost a third of its value.

Mr Idermark was chairman of Swedbank from 2010 to 2013 and deputy chairman from 2013 to 2016, before he became chairman again.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2019, with the headline 'Swedbank chairman quits over money laundering scandal'. Print Edition | Subscribe