Ripples from ABN AMRO’s €480 million (U.S. $575 million) settlement in the Netherlands to resolve money laundering allegations reached Danske Bank on Monday, as two of the bank’s executives resigned after being connected to the Dutch probe.
Danske Bank CEO Chris Vogelzang announced he is stepping down, saying Dutch authorities plan to name him as “a suspect in connection with their investigations of potential violations of Dutch legislation relating to the prevention of money laundering at ABN AMRO.”
“My status as a suspect does not imply that I will be charged,” Vogelzang said in a statement released by the bank. “However, given the special situation Danske Bank is in and the intense scrutiny the bank is under, particularly in relation to anti-money laundering as a consequence of the still unresolved Estonia matter, I do not want speculations about my person to get in the way of the continued development of Danske Bank. Therefore, I feel that the only right thing is for me to leave.”
ABN AMRO is being investigated by the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service for failing to prevent money laundering within its financial network, due to compliance deficiencies that include “having client files in good order, timely reporting of unusual transactions and discontinuing relationships with clients in due time and related suspicions of culpable money laundering,” ABN AMRO said in its 2020 annual report.
Vogelzang was a member of the managing board at ABN AMRO from 2009-16, according to his LinkedIn profile. He took over as top executive at Danske Bank in June 2019.
Vogelzang will be replaced as CEO by Carsten Egeriis, who has been Danske Bank’s chief risk officer for the past four years. Before joining Danske, Egeriis had been chief risk officer with various divisions within Barclays Bank and Barclays U.K. from 2010-17.
“We owe Chris a huge thank you for the tremendous effort he has made for Danske Bank,” Egeriis stated. “He has set a new direction for Danske Bank and done so in a way, which I personally have appreciated, because it really has been a team effort in the leadership team. Now, it will be my job, together with the rest of the leadership team and all our skilled colleagues, to continue this work, which I am looking forward to.”
Also stepping down is Danske Bank board member Gerrit Zalm, who had been the CEO at ABN AMRO and is a former Dutch finance minister. Zalm confirmed to a Dutch radio station he is also under consideration as a suspect in the ABN AMRO case, Reuters reported.
A third ABN AMRO bank executive being considered as a suspect has not yet been publicly identified.
Danske, Denmark’s biggest bank, has had its own high-profile money laundering issues, as alluded to by Vogelzang in his resigning statement. The bank allowed more than $227 billion of dirty money to flow through its Estonia branch without taking proper steps to identify the fraud and stem the tide. From February 2007 up until the end of January 2016, Danske failed to spot billions of euros of illicit funds from countries including Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Russia that were being laundered through the bank.
The fallout from those failings is ongoing, including criminal and regulatory investigations in Denmark, Estonia, France, and the United States. Danske’s then-CEO Thomas Borgen resigned in September 2018 amid an executive boardroom shuffle and was charged by Danish prosecutors in 2019 for his involvement.
Philippe Vollot, Danske Bank’s chief compliance officer hired in November 2018 in large part to address the fallout from the Estonia branch money laundering issues, remains with the bank on its executive board.