October 29, 2018 / 2:59 PM / 22 days ago

Danske Bank clears whistleblower to speak freely in European Parliament

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - A whistleblower who helped to reveal a major money laundering scandal at Danske Bank (DANSKE.CO) has been freed of confidentiality obligations to the company ahead of his testimony in the European Parliament next month.

FILE PHOTO: Danske Bank flags flutter at the bank's Estonian branch in Tallinn, Estonia August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

The scandal involves 200 billion euros (£179.6 billion) in payments through Danske’s Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015, many of which Denmark’s largest bank said in a report last month it regards as suspicious.

Howard Wilkinson, a British trader in Danske Bank’s Estonia branch until 2014, is scheduled to testify at public hearings in Copenhagen on Nov. 19, and in Brussels on Nov. 21.

“We have released the person in question of all contractual duties of confidentiality in relation to Danske Bank,” a Danske spokesman said in a statement.

“We have previously sent a legal statement to the (whistleblower) giving our permission to talk to the relevant supervisory authorities in Denmark and Estonia, and have encouraged the person in question to,” the spokesman said.

Wilkinson’s U.S.-based lawyer Stephen Kohn confirmed in an emailed statement that his client had been granted permission to testify and encouraged Danske Bank to give a waiver to all employees who had signed similar agreements.

“Had the Bank not insisted upon an overly broad secrecy agreement, the harm caused by the illegal money laundering scheme would have been significantly mitigated,” Kohn said.

“The bank must also permit full disclosure to all law enforcement entities in Estonia and Denmark,” he added.

It is crucial that Wilkinson be freed of any non-disclosure agreements following so that he can speak freely, Jeppe Kofod, a spokesman for the European Parliament committee that is arranging the Brussels hearing, told Reuters last week.

The scandal has led the bank’s former chief executive Thomas Borgen to resign and almost halved Danske Bank share price since February.

The bank’s interim CEO, Jesper Nielsen, will represent the bank in the hearings in the Danish and European Parliament, the Danske statement said.

Reporting by Emil Gjerding Nielson and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; editing by Keith Weir and Alexander Smith

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