Oslo / Reuters
Norway’s biggest bank DNB must provide a written explanation of its policy of helping clients set up offshore companies in the Seychelles, the Norwegian industry minister said in a statement on Monday.
“DNB says this should not have happened and that the bank should not have participated. That I agree to,” Trade and Industry Minister Monica Maeland said.
The Norwegian government is the bank’s top owner with a stake of 34 percent. DNB’s Seychelles activities were first reported by daily Aftenposten, quoting leaked documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The leak involves more than 11.5 million documents from the files of the law firm, revealing details of hundreds of thousands of clients in multiple jurisdictions.
DNB said in a separate statement it regretted assisting about 40 customers in setting up the firms between 2006 and 2010, and that the practice had ended.
“It’s the customers’ responsibility to report their own funds to tax authorities. Still, we believe we should not have contributed to establishing these companies,” Chief Executive of DNB Group Rune Bjerke said, referring to the Seychelles firms.
“The structures could be abused for tax evasion,” the CEO added.
Bjerke said an internal investigation would be conducted and he would later give a briefing to the bank’s board.
DNB is Norway’s largest financial services group with total combined assets of more than NOK 1.9 trillion and a market capitalisation NOK 196 billion as per 27 November 2014. The Group includes brands such as DNB, Vital, Nordlandsbanken, Cresco, Postbanken, DnB NORD and Carlson. DNB’s head office is located in Oslo.
The two largest owners of DNB are the Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry (34 percent) and Sparebankstiftelsen DnB NOR (10 percent).
Besides, the governor of the Norwegian central bank will also apply for a second, and final, six-year term.
Olsen, 64, has been governor of Norges Bank since January 2011. His six-year term can only be renewed once. By flagging his intentions, Olsen may scare off any other serious contender. In Norway, it is customary for governors to have their terms renewed. The bank is fighting a downturn in the Norwegian economy prompted by the slump in oil prices.
It cut its key policy rate to a record low of 0.50 percent this month and said it may cut again in the autumn.
Olsen’s comments came after his position was advertised on Sunday.
“Solid knowledge of monetary policy, financial markets and capital management is required,” said the advertisement, published in the Sunday edition of the daily Aftenposten and on the website of the Norwegian state’s job positions.
The head of the central bank also heads the bank’s board and is responsible for the country’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest.
The deadline for applications for the job is April 24. The list of applicants will be made public.
DNB is Norway‘s largest financial services group with total combined assets of more than NOK 1.9 trillion and a market capitalisation NOK 196 billion as per 27 November 2014. The Group includes brands such as DNB, Vital, Nordlandsbanken, Cresco, Postbanken, DnB NORD and Carlson. DNB’s head office is located in Oslo.