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US judge accepts Danske Bank’s guilty plea in Estonia probe



(Reuters) — A U.S. judge on Thursday accepted Danske Bank’s guilty plea to a bank fraud conspiracy charge and agreement to pay more than $2 billion to end investigations into anti-money laundering failures at a now-defunct branch in Estonia.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald accepted the plea at a hearing in Manhattan federal court, with Danske’s general counsel in attendance.

The $2.06 billion payout by Denmark’s biggest bank includes $1.21 billion to the U.S. government, $178.6 million to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and a $672.3 million criminal fine to Danish authorities, court records showed.

Danske was investigated in several countries after revealing in September 201

8 that an internal investigation had uncovered around €200 billion ($210 billion) of payments made through the Estonian branch, with many payments appearing suspicious.

The U.S. Justice Department said Danske deceived U.S. banks about its customers in Estonia and its anti-money laundering controls to enable high-risk customers who lived outside Estonia, including in neighboring Russia, to access the U.S. financial system.

Danske Bank Estonia processed $160 billion on behalf of foreign clients through U.S. banks, the Justice Department said.

Martin Blessing, Danske’s chairman, said last month that the bank apologized for and took “full responsibility for the unacceptable failures and misconduct of the past, which have no place in Danske Bank today.”


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