Aivar Rehe: it sounds very illogical

Joosep Värk
, reporter
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Photo: Andras Kralla / Äripäev

Former leader of the Estonian branch of Danske bank Aivar Rehe says, he did not know anything about transactions from Moldova and this story sounds very illogical.

I am working with an international association of investigative journalists (OCCRP) on a case of international money laundering. It concerns the years 2013-2014 and how Moldovan banks were used to launder dirty money from Russia. Large sums from a bank in Moldova (Moldindconbank – J. V.) also reached the Estonian branch of Danske bank, for a total of $1.18 billion. The money is from offshore accounts to accounts of Estonian offshore companies. You were CEO of Danske during that period; are you familiar with the transactions I'm referring to?

I definitely am not. It sounds somehow very illogical.

You are not aware of transaction of this magnitude from Moldova?

Sounds highly illogical.

Your departure (fall of 2015 – J. V.) had nothing to do with…

No, definitely not. It sounds deeply illogical. Your source and the work you've done, they're not accurate.

What do you mean they're not accurate?

(Stutters at length – J. V.) I'm not familiar with the situation. This entire cash flow just doesn't make sense?

Could it be illogical that banks in Moldova make transfers to Danske…

It's just illogical information.

What do you mean, precisely?

I cannot even say. I'll put it like this: I don't know what I mean, just that what you're saying doesn't make sense.

You won't say what part of it (fails to make sense J. V.)…

No, I don't know. I cannot even pinpoint a connection. I believe it is clearly a case of highlighting an incorrect connection. I don't know how to comment.

What do you mean by an incorrect connection. I asked whether you knew anything about these transactions?

I don't.

The current board says they've had problems with anti-money laundering measures and control in the past, and that they have made various changes, including as concerns the management.

It is no secret the bank serviced non-residents, and it is not the only bank that did. It is an ongoing effort. International rules change, and all financial institutions are obligated to follow and comply with changes in procedures, train employees, develop IT solutions, put in place precautionary systems. The work never ends.

However, what about what they are pointing to, changes in the management linked to these problems…

I do not know how to comment on that.

Just eighteen months before you left, the financial supervisory authority issued a precept to Danske in connection with anti-money laundering and terrorist financing prevention measures.

I believe this is something the bank should comment on. I was doing my job; if such aspects exist, you should turn to the bank and they will tell you. I have no right… this is banking information, and you will get capable answers from authorized persons.

They have. I'm asking whether your departure had anything to do with that precept?

Definitely not. No, no, no. These things are not related.

What was it related to?

I explained it back when I made the decision. The bank changed its business heading; it will become a corporate bank and its grasp on the banking market will weaken. I'm the type of executive who wants to grow, to involve different categories of clients. My course was to try and get at least a quarter of a million clients for the bank, after which I was going to take a break and then move on. Because their heading is a different one, I made my decision.

Allow me to ask a hypothetical question then. Should the CEO be aware of a situation were nearly $1.2 billion are moved from a bank in Moldova to the Estonian office of Danske over a period of 18 months? Or could it be information that never reaches them?

I believe that it is speculation on such a level that it is wrong to even raise that question. If you're saying this and you have some kind of sources, unfortunately I will have to tell you I'm not the head of the bank, and it is very difficult for me to comment. You need a bank to get a competent answer to this question.

They have answered it, saying they've had problems with the “know your client” principle.

There is nothing more I can tell you if that is sufficient. They are the ones to turn to.