Norway’s top bank apologizes after tax evasion leak
Norwegian bank DNB, the nation’s largest, said it shouldn’t have helped its customers set up businesses in tax havens.
DNB subsidiary DNB Luxembourg helped around 40 clients create companies in the Seychelles, a top tax haven, between 2006 and 2010, Aftenposten reported as part of the massive Panama Papers leak.
Following the revelations, the bank apologized and said that current internal regulations would not allow similar actions to happen again.
“It is the customers’ responsibility to report their funds to the tax authorities. Nevertheless, we feel that we should not have contributed to establishing these companies. Not because the customers have done something wrong but because the structures could be abused to evade taxes,” DNB CEO Rune Bjerke said in a press release.
The DNB revelations came to light as part of ‘The Panama Papers’, a huge cross-border journalism collaboration that has been analysing millions of records held by Mossack Fonseca, an international law firm based in Panama.
Some 400 journalists from 80 countries pored through the Mossack Fonseca files, including emails, receipts, bank statements, copied passports and others – 11 million in all – for more than a year. The results were released on Sunday.
In addition to the DNB revelation, Aftenposten also reported that more than 200 Norwegians were listed as Mossack Fonseca customers.
Bjerke said that based on the available information, DNB did not break any laws or regulations. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to apologize for DNB Luxembourg’s action and lamented that they weren’t stopped earlier.
“That it was legal to create these kinds of companies does not mean that it was right for us to do it for these customers,” he said.
Bjerke said that DNB’s lawyers have launched a “thorough investigation into all aspects of the case”.
He added that the bank has completely different internal rules than it did ten years ago and that DNB’s current guidelines do not allow for the bank to give tax advice.
“This is a closed chapter at our business in Luxembourg,” Bjerke said.
Sweden's Nordea bank and around 400 Swedish citizens also feature in the leaked documents. Nordea's Danish branch and Denmark's Jyske Bank also feature in the files.