Banker tied to money laundering found dead in Estonia

International

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Estonian police said Wednesday they found the body of the former head of Danske Bank in Estonia who was at the center of a 200 billion-euro ($220 billion) money laundering scandal and had disappeared two days ago.

Police said Aivar Rehe, 56, went missing Monday, fueling speculation it might be related to the 2007-2015 money laundering scheme that had engulfed the Danish bank.

The executive was found Wednesday after a search involving dogs, drones and volunteers near his home in the capital, Tallinn.

Police had said earlier that no third parties were suspected in Rehe’s disappearance and suggested the possibility of a suicide. According to Estonian media, Rehe’s body was found in his house’s back yard and everything at the scene pointed toward death by suicide.

Rehe, who was head of Danske Bank in Estonia from 2006 to 2015, said in an interview with the Estonian newspaper Postimees in March that he feels responsible but also believes Danske Bank’s anti-money laundering mechanisms at that time were adequate.

Rehe wasn’t considered a suspect in the case. Prosecutor Marek Vahing of the Estonian state prosecutors’ office in charge of investigating the case in Tallinn told the Estonian public broadcaster ERR on Tuesday that Rehe was last questioned about a year ago, and said his disappearance wouldn’t affect the ongoing probe.

In 2018, ten former employees at Danske Bank’s Estonia branch were briefly detained and are currently being investigated in connection with the massive money laundering scandal – one of the largest of its kind ever in which dirty money mainly from Russia and former Soviet republics was channeled through its client accounts.

The ten Estonian employees are mainly Danske Bank client managers suspected of knowingly assisting large-scale money laundering that involved Azerbaijan and Georgia, two former Soviet republics.

The scandal has had far-reaching consequences for the Estonian financial sector, which has become dominated by Nordic banks, and led to major criminal probes in Denmark, France and the United States along with Estonia.

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