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Ex-Swedbank CEO faces fraud charges in money laundering scandal

This week: a Swedish ex-banking CEO charged with fraud; a former Mexican political leader jailed on sex recruiting charges; and a gang of Twitch scammers arrested in Turkey.

Napier AI
January 7, 2022

2022 holds no respite for individuals who flout the privilege of their positions in finance, politics, and online gaming all over the world: the Swedish anti-money laundering watchdog charged an ex-banking CEO with fraud; Mexican authorities are holding a former political leader on sex recruiting charges after their AML regulators froze his bank accounts; and Turkish police have arrested a gang of video game streaming scammers who siphoned off millions from stolen credit cards.

Find out more on these stories below.

Ex-chief of Swedbank charged over Baltic money laundering scandal

Sweden’s Economic Crime Authority (ECA) has charged former Swedbank CEO Birgitte Bonnesen with several financial crimes, including fraud.  

In announcing the charges, ECA chief prosecutor Thomas Langrot noted that the embattled Ms Bonnesen, who was fired by Swedbank in early 2019, had either deliberately or negligently circulated grossly inaccurate information about the inadequate AML performance of the organisation in its Baltic operations.

Qualifying his decision, Mr Langrot said there was evidence of a “cover-up” of money laundering problems at Swedbank. In a report commissioned by the bank in 2020, it was found that €37bn (£30bn) worth of transactions carrying a high risk of money laundering were carried out in the Baltic region during the period of 2014 to 2019.  

However, since the findings, the bank has stated they’ve taken a number of actions “to remedy shortcomings and ensure a sustainable corporate governance in Swedbank,” and under new management, has “strengthened its anti-money laundering work and compliance with the international sanctions’ regulations.”  

Speaking in defence of Ms Bonnesen, her lawyer, expressed confidence in her innocence and likely acquittal, stating that it is “important to see that the prosecutor is not saying she did anything for her own benefit. She has not bought or sold one single share.”

Read more on this story at The Guardian.

Mexican authorities jail ex-political chief pending sex-trafficking trial

A Mexican judge  this week granted a request by prosecutors to hold the ex-leader of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (IRP), Mr Cuauhtémoc Gutiérrez de la Torre, in jail pending trial on charges of sex-trafficking.

The accusations against Mr Gutiérrez de la Torre, consist of four counts of attempted human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation and stem from 2014, when he was accused on the radio news show Noticias MVS of links to a prostitution ring.  

The broadcast made the allegations after a journalist’s undercover sting operation claimed that his office recruited “female personnel to work in government offices” through newspaper adverts. The sting recorded recruiters allegedly informing potential candidates that they would have to have sex with Mr Gutiérrez de la Torre if they were hired.

Although prosecutors did not pursue the charges due to lack of evidence at the time and Mr Gutiérrez de la Torre strenuously denied the allegations, the IRP removed him from his post immediately. The charges were later re-instated, and he was arrested on 29 December 2021 after Mexico’s AML regulators froze his bank accounts.

Read more on this story at AP News.

Turkish police probe into money laundering scam via Twitch streaming site nets 40 arrests

Turkish police have detained 40 members of a gang who allegedly used Twitch, a popular video game streaming site hosted by tech giant Amazon, to launder $10m (£7.38m).

The arrests were the culmination of a two-month long investigation into criminal misuse of the platform. The police probe spanned 11 of Turkey’s provinces, and as many as 2400 streamers are thought to have been involved in the scam.

The large-scale, well-organised money laundering operation involved hackers buying up millions in Twitch Bits - the site’s virtual currency - using stolen credit cards. The Bits were then donated to willing streamers, some of whom claimed to be unaware that they were engaged in a crime, who refunded about 80% to the scammers, taking a 20% cut for themselves.  

The money laundering scandal was first exposed in late-October 2021, with many more civic-minded Turkish Twitch users vocalising their dismay and anger on social media platforms. A probe was quickly instigated by Turkey’s Chief Prosecutor’s Office, resulting in this week’s arrests. Four suspected gang members are still at large, while some of those detained are believed to be minors.

Read more on this story at Kotaku.

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