United States to give USD 50 mln of Danske Bank penalty to Estonia

Former Danske Bank Estonian headquarter in Tallinn.
Former Danske Bank Estonian headquarter in Tallinn. Photo: Mihkel Maripuu

As an expression of gratitude for its cooperation in the investigation of the Danske Bank money laundering case, the US Department of Justice will share 50 million US dollars in the fines awarded from the bank with Estonia, spokespeople for the Estonian Ministry of Justice said on Friday.

«US Secretary of Justice Merrick Garland thanked Estonia as one of the best foreign partners for the US justice system. He pointed out that we have made significant efforts for the US both in the investigation of money laundering cases and in the cyber domain,» Justice Minister Kalle Laanet said after meeting with his US counterpart in Washington.

According to the US secretary of justice, the decision in principle has been made to share the fine with Estonia. Currently, the US authorities are dealing with technical issues, as such decisions need to be approved by the US Department of State, among others, and in some cases also by Congress.

The Estonian minister of justice said that legal cooperation with the United States will continue with a view to holding the Russian leadership accountable for crimes of aggression in Ukraine. Estonia wants to strengthen cooperation with the US also in the field of forensics and in supporting partner countries in the fight against corruption.

«Estonia stands out Europe-wide in the fight against corruption. In the fight against corruption, we are a role model and a support to Ukraine, among others. In our meetings with the US authorities, we were pleased to be assured again that we have a common interest in continuing to work together in this and many other areas of importance to us,» Laanet was quoted as saying.

Last December, Danske Bank filed a guilty plea to a bank fraud conspiracy charge and, in agreement with the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, agreed to pay a total fine of nearly two billion dollars. During several years of international judicial cooperation, Estonian prosecutors contributed to the prosecution of violations so that the authorities in both Denmark and the US could prosecute Danske for money laundering.

Estonia will continue cooperation with the United States in combating serious crime, the Estonian ministry said in conclusion of the press release.

Estonian chief prosecutor's office: US giving Estonia USD 50 mln not usual

«This is not the first time the United States has shared assets with Estonia in this way, but this time we are talking about an unprecedented amount. It is important to keep in mind that the sharing of fines is a right of the United States, not an obligation,» Estonia's chief prosecutor Andres Parmas said on Friday.

He said the decision to allocate such a large amount confirms the weight of the role of Estonian law enforcement authorities in the proceedings that led to the fining of Danske.

«In Estonia, a court can only impose a fine of up to 16 million euros on a company on conviction. Therefore, we are very satisfied with the outcome of the negotiations, as the money we will receive exceeds the maximum possible penalty in Estonia more than threefold,» the prosecutor general said.

He said the process leading up to the decision to allocate the money has taken some time, as the United States has wanted to understand how the amount to be granted to Estonia would help improve the country's capacity to fight white-collar crime and confiscate the proceeds of crime.