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Report: Danske Bank probed whistleblower in money laundering case

Danske Bank A/S allegedly conducted an internal investigation into Howard Wilkinson, the whistleblower who brought into light potential money laundering at the Danish lender's Estonian branch, the Financial Times reported.

Wilkinson's lawyer, Stephen Kohn, said the probe was meant to "discredit" his client's disclosures and "blackmail him into silence," according to the report. In a letter seen by the FT, Kohn called on Danish prosecutors to launch a criminal probe into the matter, which according to him constituted an invasion of his client's privacy and "was initiated in direct retaliation for his lawful disclosures of illegal activity."

Wilkinson previously served as Danske Bank's Baltics trading head and tried to alert the lender about suspicious activities in the region on numerous occasions before becoming a whistleblower in 2017.

A person familiar with the situation told the FT that Danske Bank considered hiring Parsifal, a private investigation firm, to carry out the probe but ultimately decided to do it on its own. Sources familiar with the bank's investigation confirmed its existence but denied it was done in an improper manner and only examined Wilkinson's claims, his terms of severance and whether he was incorrectly pressured, the FT said.

Meanwhile, Danish newspaper Berlingske wrote that local prosecutors are already questioning Danske Bank on why it terminated its contract with the investigative firm.

Kohn's allegations could bring up another headache for the embattled Copenhagen-based bank, which is still reeling from the €200 billion money laundering scandal. In June, the lender dismissed head of banking for Denmark and former interim CEO Jesper Nielsen, citing shortfalls in his oversight of the group's Flexinvest Fri product.