Copenhagen — The world’s biggest money-laundering scandal had yet to be uncovered in August 2015, but management at Danske Bank was trying quietly to close down the business at the heart of it. Russian entities and others from former Soviet states had moved €200bn through the Estonian branch of Denmark’s biggest lender since 2007, roughly 10 times the size of the Baltic state’s economy. Then executives from Deutsche Bank, which was handling much of the cross-border payments for Danske and is itself no stranger to scandal, made an astonishing claim. They told Danske the problem was getting worse.  Despite a reduction in payments from Estonia in the previous two years, there had been an increase in the proportion of suspect cases the German lender was having to investigate from the small branch. “In [the second quarter] of 2015 alone there had been 16 cases related to such crimes as narcotics, identify stealing, etc,” state the minutes of the meeting between senior managers from both ...

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