TALLINN - According to experts, Estonian financial institutions are popular among criminals for laundering money because Estonia offers cheaper currency transactions than Russia and less regulation than in the EU. Its convenient location for such transactions adds to the appeal.
There is substantial evidence, which has been reported by several European papers, that the Russian mafia has for years used the largest Estonian money exchange company Tavid and other firms registered in Estonia and Bulgaria to launder vast and unprecedented amounts of dirty money. Estonian journalists Piret Reiljan and Koit Brinkmann decided to investigate the alleged money laundering schemes, which are said to not only involve actors in Estonia but in Russia, Bulgaria and an off-shore entity as well. For their research into the background of the money laundering scheme, they set out to Bulgaria, where they worked together with Bulgarian investigative journalist Stanimir Vaglenov.
The investigations eventually led the team to Estonian currency exchange bureau Tavid and the bank Sampo Pank. In total, some 15 billion Kroons are said to have changed hands, in what turned out to be one of the largest money laundering schemes in Eastern Europe.