Bank: Need for closer look at bit­coin role

New Straits Times - - Business -

COPEN­HAGEN: The big­gest bank in the Nordic re­gion says this month’s ran­somware at­tack un­der­scores the need for law­mak­ers to look more closely at bit­coin’s role in fi­nan­cial crime.

Nordea Bank AB, whose chief risk of­fi­cer, Julie Galbo, tes­ti­fied to the Dan­ish par­lia­ment on Tues­day in re­sponse to ques­tions about man­age­ment’s ef­forts to fight money laun­der­ing, says vir­tual cur­ren­cies like bit­coin are mak­ing that bat­tle harder to win.

“Bit­coin is an un­reg­u­lated and opaque cur­rency that’s of­ten used in shady trans­ac­tions,” Galbo said af­ter tes­ti­fy­ing. She says bit­coin rep­re­sents a “big risk” stand­ing in the way of ef­forts to fight money laun­der­ing be­cause of the anonymity it af­fords those who use it.

Nordea has been in­ves­ti­gated by au­thor­i­ties in Den­mark and Swe­den for its fail­ures to com­ply with anti-money laun­der­ing re­quire­ments. Last year, it was also re­spond­ing to in­quiries from the United States govern­ment on al­leged breaches of anti-money laun­der­ing rules that have al­ready led to fines in Swe­den.

The bank, the only global sys­tem­i­cally im­por­tant fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion in the Nordic re­gion, fea­tured promi­nently in the Panama Pa­pers for al­legedly help­ing rich clients hide their wealth from tax au­thor­i­ties.

Man­age­ment, led by chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Casper von Koskull, has tried to ad­dress the crit­i­cisms, adding hun­dreds of peo­ple to Nordea’s com­pli­ance depart­ment.

Galbo said “pat­terns of fi­nan­cial crime change con­stantly,” mak­ing it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult for those fight­ing it to do their jobs.

She says work­ing closer with the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties, in­clud­ing shar­ing knowl­edge, would help banks com­ply with the rules.

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