Swedish bank named in tax dodging scandal

3:51 min

A Swedish bank helps its top customers avoid tax, and Sweden's Finance Minister is surprised, but the bank says it is following the law.

Sweden's Nordea bank is to be investigated over reports it helps its top customers avoid tax.

The major leak of documents reportedly from Panama-based legal firm Mossack Fonseca has included details of how Swedish bank Nordea helps its customers avoid tax by using so-called tax havens.

At the financial regulator Finansinspektionen (FI) Christer Furustedt tells Radio Sweden that "we take it very seriously if an institution has low compliance with our regulations."

Nordea press spokesperson Magnus Nelin says to Swedish Radio News that they have helped customers to avoid tax, when it was acceptable, and they also changed their rules in 2009.

Now Christer Furustedt tells Radio Sweden they will have meetings with Nordea and has also requested information from Luxembourg, to find out whether FI needs to take further action.

In May 2015 FI hit Nordea with its maximum fine, SEK 50 million, for failing to live up to its responsibilities in fighting money laundering, reports Reuters.

And Sweden's Finance Minister, Social Democrat Magdalena Andersson, says to Swedish Radio News that Nordea must consider how this affects their good name.

"Our whole system relies on everyone paying tax together. There are many who spend a lot of time and resources on avoiding paying. I think it is an unsuitable way to work. My goal is for us to have a tax system where it is difficult to avoid paying tax, and where everyone wants to be involved and contribute to our high quality social services."

According to documents seen by Swedish Television SVT the bank still has over a hundred active "shell companies" set up to allow people to be based in a tax haven for tax reasons.

The Nordea bank was until 2013 partly owned by the Swedish state, which bailed it out during the financial crisis of the early 1990s, and then slowly privatized the bank.