19 Jan 2021 11:19

Swedish banks and police formalise cooperation against money laundering

SEB and the largest banks in Sweden started a cooperation with the Swedish Police Authority in June last year that sought to improve the ability to identify and fight money laundering and organised crime through increased information sharing. The pilot phase of the initiative has produced promising results, and the banks and the police have now decided to take the cooperation to the next level by formalising it to a higher degree.

The SAMLIT (Swedish Anti-Money Laundering Intelligence Task Force) initiative was initiated during 2019 by SEB’s CEO Johan Torgeby in his role as chairman of the Swedish Bankers’ Association and launched as a pilot in June 2020. The participating banks — Danske Bank, Handelsbanken, Nordea, SEB och Swedbank — have during the summer and autumn regularly together met with the police’s intelligence unit at the National Operations Department (NOA) to share information. The Swedish Bankers’ Association is also participating in the initiative.

The aim has been to find formats for increased cooperation between the banks and the police and by doing so, improving the ability to identify and prevent money laundering and fighting organised crime and terrorism financing. The initiative has, for example, enabled increased information sharing regarding new procedures, types of crime and other patterns that the participants together have been able to identify.  

”Money is often the driving force behind organised crime and criminals launder money to hide their criminal proceeds,” says Linda H Staaf, the head of the intelligence unit at NOA. “The banks’ cooperation with the police has provided us with more information, which increases our ability to fight violence such as shootings and explosions since we can disturb and make matters more complicated for those responsible for the violence.”  

”One of the things we hoped to achieve through this cooperation was to be able to secure better evidence in order to prosecute individuals and companies organised in criminal networks,” says Martin Johansson, who in his role as senior advisor at SEB leads the bank’s work with SAMLIT.

“During the summer and the autumn, we have therefore as part of the pilot cooperated on a number of cases that have been chosen and presented by the police. Even if the existing legislation in many ways still prevents the sharing of information regarding individuals and companies, the pilot has resulted in very promising results.”

The banks and the Swedish Police Authority has now decided to take the cooperation to the next level by formalizing it to a higher degree. That means that SAMLIT will now become a permanent cooperation rather than a pilot, with the aim to produce a more formal framework for cooperation and governance during the coming months. SAMLIT will also work towards changes in law and legislation in order to improve the possibility for information sharing, and towards welcoming more market participants to the cooperation to make it even more efficient.

Martin Johansson has been appointed chairman of the collaboration in 2021 and thereafter the chairmanship will rotate between the banks.