LAUNDERED LOOT

The top 50 global banks allegedly involved in a $21 billion Russian money-laundering scheme

Obsession
Borders
Obsession
Borders

Between 2010 and 2014, at least $20.8 billion was laundered out of Russia, funneled into banks in Moldova and Latvia, and spread from there into 96 countries across the world. The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which unearthed the scheme in 2014, dubbed it “the Russian Laundromat.”

Its main beneficiaries haven’t been named (though former Moldovan MP Vyacheslav Platon has been arrested for allegedly orchestrating it). But now The Guardian and other outlets are reporting that a lot—an awful lot—of international banks ended up as hosts for the money, despite their anti-money-laundering controls. The data, the Guardian says, come from evidence collected in a police investigation and provided by the OCCRP.

Under the scheme, 21 shell companies with hidden owners were set up in the UK, Cyprus and New Zealand. One company would then create a fake “loan” to another company, and a Russian firm would guarantee the loan. The shell companies would then default on the fake “loan,” and a corrupt Moldovan judge would “authenticate” the fake debt, ordering the Russian debtor to make the repayment into a Moldovan court bank account. The Russian debtor could then get the money out of the country and launder it through a host of banks throughout the world—usually going first via Trasta Komercbanka in Latvia.

(There’s a nice graphic explaining this from OCCRP.)

This cash then ended up in accounts at 732 banks, including giants like HSBC, Bank of China, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Citibank, and Royal Bank of Scotland. Transparency International’s Robert Barrington described the 17 British banks that received money as part of the scheme as, “at best lax and at worst complicit.” Britain’s HSBC was one of the worst alleged culprits, receiving $545 million.

The Guardian contacted the 17 UK banks for comment. None challenged the allegations, it says; all issued statements with some variation on the theme that they had money-laundering controls in place, cooperated closely with law enforcement, and could not discuss individual cases.

Here are the top 50 banks into which money from the scheme was deposited.

Bank Headquarters Amount
Trasta Komercbanka Latvia $3.2 billion
Privatbank Ukraine $2 billion
Danske Bank Denmark $1.2 billion
Bank of China China $717 million
Baltikums Bank (now Blue Orange) Latvia $702 million
Rosevrobank Russia $576 million
HSBC United Kingdom $545 million
Hellenic Bank Cyprus $529 million
Moldinconbank Moldova $437 million
Emirates NBD Bank UAE $357 million
Compagnie Bancaire Helvetique Switzerland $287 million
ABLV Latvia $282 million
Latvijas Biznesa Banka (M2M Europe) Latvia $189 million
Eurobank Cyprus Cyprus $178 million
Versobank Estonia $164 million
UBS Switzerland $162 million
Regionala Investiciju Bank Latvia $151 million
East European Trust Bank Russia $147 million
Royal Bank of Scotland United Kingdom $146 million
Krediidipank Estonia $122 million
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China China $93 million
Norvik Banka Latvia $85 million
Rietumu Banka Latvia $78 million
Nordea Bank Sweden $66 million
Bank of Communications China $64 million
Ukio Bankas (closed) Lithuania $62 million
BiznesInvestBank Moldova $62 million
United Overseas Bank Singapore $58 million
Agricultural Bank of China China $57 million
Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. Singapore $53 million
Hang Seng Bank Hong Kong $52 million
Promsvyazbank Russia $45 million
Versobank Estonia $45 million
Citadele Banka Latvia $42 million
Credit Suisse Switzerland $40 million
Citibank United States $37 million
Victoriabank Moldova $35 million
Amsterdam Trade Bank Netherlands $35 million
Seb Bank Estonia $32 million
Standard Chartered Bank United Kingdom $29 million
Rigensis Bank Latvia $28 million
Commerzbank Germany $27 million
Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank UAE $26 million
MKB Bank ZRT Hungary $24 million
Deutsche Bank Germany $24 million
Mega International Commercial Bank Taiwan $20 million
Falcon Private Bank Switzerland $20 million
Turkiye Garanti Bankasi Turkey $20 million
Cyprus Popular Bank Cyprus $20 million

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the Seb Group bank involved in the matter as Seb Bank in Latvia. In fact, it is the Seb Bank in Estonia that was named in the OCCRP list.

home our picks popular latest obsessions search