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Russian oligarch files suit against Nordic banks

Copenhagen

BILLIONAIRE Boris Rotenberg filed a lawsuit against Nordic lenders including Nordea Bank Abp for violations of service agreements as a result of US sanctions imposed on him in 2014.

The suit was filed at the Helsinki District Court and is also directed against Svenska Handelsbanken AB, Danske Bank A/S and OP Corporate Bank, the court said last Friday. The court declined to comment further, and the documents in the case have been declared confidential.

The suit draws the Nordic region's biggest banks into the battleground over sanctions. European lenders are forced in practice to comply with US sanctions on individuals, in order to continue doing business with US banks, even though the people in question may not be on European sanctions lists.

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Mr Rotenberg did not immediately respond to a request for a comment. Danske Bank and Handelsbanken declined to comment, while OP was not immediately able to comment. Nordea confirmed the filing while declining to comment on the specifics.

Julie Galbo, chief risk officer at the bank, said that in general the case "illustrates the complexities of fighting money laundering". "There are different regulatory regimes," she added. "This shows that if one is to fight money laundering effectively, first of all we need some kind of global collaboration on what to fight and whom to fight, and then we need ever better collaboration between authorities and the banking community."

The four banks had a combined market share in Finland of 77 per cent last year, according to the industry group Finance Finland. OP and Nordea were the largest banks with shares of 36 per cent and 26 per cent, respectively. Danske had a market share of 9.5 per cent while Handelsbanken's was 5.7 per cent.

The suit was filed on Oct 4 and the defendants were notified a week ago, according to the Helsinki court. They have 30 days to respond after they have signed the certificates saying that they have been notified.

Mr Rotenberg and his older brother, Arkady, were placed under US sanctions in 2014 with others in President Vladimir Putin's inner circle as part a rebuke against Russia's annexation of Crimea. Boris Rotenberg, 61, was not sanctioned by Europe because he is a Finnish citizen.

At the time of the sanctions, the US Treasury said that the brothers had "provided support to Putin's pet projects by receiving and executing high price contracts for the Sochi Olympic Games and state-controlled Gazprom" and "amassed enormous amounts of wealth during the years of Putin's rule in Russia". BLOOMBERG