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Danske Bank whistleblower's emails after boss's query appear 'misleading'

Howard Wilkinson, the whistleblower in the Danske Bank A/S money laundering scandal, appeared to wish to paint a rosier picture of the bank's suspicious activities than was actually the case after senior management began asking questions, Danish newspaper Finans reported.

Danske has been rocked over the past year by revelations of a huge money laundering scandal as $234 billion was shown to have passed through its tiny Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015. The funds came from Russia and former Soviet states and flowed mainly to companies registered in the U.K. and tax havens like the British Virgin Islands. An investigation commissioned by Danske last year found that most of the funds were suspicious.

The bank is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice as well as U.K., Danish and Estonian authorities. A U.S. investor has brought a related class action lawsuit against the bank.

Wilkinson, the firm's Baltics trading head, tried to alert the bank to the issue on numerous occasions before becoming a whistleblower in 2017.

However, Danish online financial newspaper Finans has published leaked emails which appear to show that Wilkinson advised colleagues to play down the number of financial agents paid by the bank to introduce customers from former Soviet states, about whom the bank knew little.

A Danske director in Copenhagen, Lars Mørch, requested that these customers be examined after a major bank stopped working with Danske following money-laundering concerns. Following Mørch's request, Finans said Wilkinson sent an email to colleagues on Sept. 16, 2013:

"It is clear that we do not want the analysis to show too many agents by number. These are generally recognized as the 'most risky' segment. The story we want to paint is 'only a few' of these," he wrote.

Finans quotes an academic expert in finance, Lars Krull of Aalborg University, who says this and other emails would have presented a misleading picture to Mørch.

Wilkinson's U.S. lawyer told the publication that he had not tried to hide anything from his superiors.