* Whistleblower alerted bank over possible criminal activity
* Police open preliminary investigation
* Wolf denies allegations, says part of smear campaign (Adds chairman, former CEO comment)
By Johan Ahlander and Helena Soderpalm
STOCKHOLM, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Swedbank said on Friday it had reported its former Chief Executive Michael Wolf, who was fired earlier this week, to the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA) for suspected financial crimes.
As a result, the police’s economic crimes unit said it had opened a preliminary investigation.
Wolf denied any wrongdoing in a statement to Swedish news agency TT.
Swedbank chairman Anders Sundstrom said a whistleblower had alerted the bank to potentially criminal activity.
“This is obviously not good at all. But the most important thing for us now is that we made the change in management,” Sundstrom told a news conference, adding he was not aware of any customers having been affected by the CEO’s alleged activity.
Sundstrom repeated the main reason for firing Wolf was the need to take the bank in a new direction, but said an ongoing FSA investigation into property deals made by management and the possible criminal activity had affected the timing.
Wolf did not immediately reply to an emailed request for comment from Reuters.
“I welcome an investigation which will be able to prove that I am innocent,” he told TT. “I think this unfortunately is another part of a smear campaign underway against me.”
The police involvement was initially reported by business daily Dagens Industri.
Wolf was fired on Tuesday, partly because of property deals made by top management that he signed off on.
Swedbank is under investigation by Sweden’s financial watchdog for conflicts of interest after two members of Wolf’s management team made property deals as a side business, sometimes with the banks’ customers.
Wolf, who signed off on these deals, said later they should not have been made. He removed one of the executives, Magnus Gagner-Geeber, late last year but let Chief Financial Officer Goran Bronner stay on.
Wolf took the helm in 2009 when the bank was on the brink of collapse. He has been credited for restoring confidence and transforming it into one of Europe’s best-performing lenders.
In 2014, he was named the 13th best-performing CEO in the World by the Harvard Business Review. (Additional reporting by Niklas Pollard; editing by Alistair Scrutton and David Evans)