Bill Browder says money laundering in Denmark is a ‘joke’ — as Nordea money flows questioned

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Scandinavian countries have created a “permissive environment” for money laundering, Bill Browder told CNBC Wednesday, shortly after the prominent Kremlin critic accused Nordea Bank of fraud, falsification and dishonest conduct.

Nordea became the latest large Nordic bank to be accused of alleged money laundering scandals on Tuesday, when Browder’s Hermitage Capital Management asked Swedish and Norwegian authorities to investigate as much as $175 million of potentially illicit funds.

In an emailed statement to CNBC, Nordea said it was aware of the documents purporting to show it had breached money laundering laws.

The bank refused to comment on individual clients, citing banking secrecy requirements.

“At the moment it is a joke what is going in terms of money laundering enforcement in Denmark for sure, and we’ll see in these other countries,” Browder told CNBC’s “Street Signs” Wednesday.

The London-based investor singled out Danish prosecutors for being “completely asleep at the wheel” when they declined to investigate Nordea Bank back in 2013.

“At this point, it would be devastating and shocking for the integrity of Denmark and various other countries if they ignore this complaint because the information is very stark,” Browder said.

“There are real, serious suspicious transactions that need to be looked at and I would be very surprised if they swept this one under the carpet this time.”

Nordea Bank is the second Nordic lender to be accused of breaches in internal controls against money laundering in recent months. Previously, Danske Bank — Denmark’s largest bank — found itself at the center of an investigation into alleged money laundering. The accusation also prompted a U.S. criminal investigation.

The Danske Bank scandal refers to 200 billion euros ($230 billion) in transactions processed by the lender’s Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015. Many of those transactions are thought to have been suspicious, the bank said last month.

The American-born Browder, author of the 2015 book “Red Notice,” worked in Russia for more than a decade — becoming the biggest foreign money manager in the country before leaving in 2005.

His lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, died in a Russian prison in 2009 after exposing corruption in the government.

Since then, Browder has led an anti-corruption campaign against Russian officials. In 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the “Magnitsky Act,” which sanctions Russians for alleged human rights abuses.