April 28, 2019 / 6:58 PM / 23 days ago

Swedish ex-PM Persson proposed as chairman at crisis-hit Swedbank

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedbank’s nomination committee has proposed former prime minister Goran Persson as chairman of the Swedish banking group, which has spent recent months contending with the fallout of alleged money laundering in its Baltic business.

FILE PHOTO: Swedbank sign is seen on the building of the bank's Lithuanian headquarters in Vilnius, Lithuania March 30, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

Persson served as prime minister for the centre-left Social Democratic for a decade until 2006, and has since pursued various business interests. He was also finance minister before assuming the premiership.

“Goran has an impressive list of achievements, a broad international contact network and experience of financial operations,” Lennart Haglund, chairman of the bank’s nomination committee, said in a statement on Sunday.

Sweden’s oldest bank has seen both its CEO and chairman leave as money laundering allegations have snowballed, and is under scrutiny from Swedish, Baltic and U.S. authorities.

The bank has been linked to a regional money laundering scandal originating with Denmark’s Danske Bank, which said last year that 200 billion euros (173 billion pounds) of suspicious funds had moved through its Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015.

The Swedish broadcaster SVT has since reported that Swedbank processed gross transactions worth up to 20 billion euros a year from high-risk, non-resident clients, mostly Russian, through its own Estonian branch from 2010 to 2016.

Persson, who has been chairman of the state-owned mining group LKAB and is on the board of the smaller bank Alandsbanken, had been mentioned as a possible “safe pair of hands” to help see Swedbank through its turmoil because of his extensive experience.

During his decades in government, he made a name for himself as a hard-nosed and skilful operator who often outmanoeuvred rivals to the left and right of his party.

The Swedbank nomination committee, which is chosen by shareholders to propose new board members, will now seek to add further know-how to a board that has faced criticism from many owners over its handling of the crisis.

“When we can present a complete proposal, we will ask the Board of Directors to send out a notice for an extra general meeting,” Haglund said.

Reporting by Niklas Pollard; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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