Denmark’s largest bank dragged into Dominican political scandal

Danske Bank denies any connection with the Dominican first lady, who is accused of hiding over €43 million in Danish accounts

In what sounds like the plot of a telenovela, Danske Bank has found itself in the middle of a political scandal in the Dominican Republic involving the wife of President Leonel Fernández and alleged bank accounts totalling €43,8 million – the equivalent of 325 million kroner.

Dominican TV personality Marcos Martínez accused First Lady Margarita Cedeño Lizardo, who is currently running for vice president, of money laundering on his TV show, ‘Diario 55’. Martinez claimed to have documents proving that Lizardo was laundering money through bank accounts at Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank.

On February 23, Dominican newspaper Diario Libre reported that Danske Bank denied any connection between them and Lizardo.

According to Diario Libre, on February 20, Haivanjoe Ng Cortiñas, a representative of the Superintendency of Banks of the Dominican Republic, sent an email to Ulrik Nodgaard, supervisor of Danish financial authority, Finanstilsynet, asking whether Lizardo was in fact a client of Danske Bank. Cortiñas told Diario Libre that he acted according to a written request from the first lady, who stated that she wanted to get to the bottom of the accusations in order to prove her innocence.

Finanstilsynet allegedly replied through Mikkel Holle, a special advisor of the banks division, by claiming that Danish privacy law forbids Finanstilsynet from providing any information. However, the Dominican Superintendency of Banks, said that Finanstilsynet revealed that Lizardo was not a client of Danske Bank.

The Copenhagen Post contacted Holle for confirmation, but he refused to comment on the case and seemed surprised when told that he had been quoted in the Dominican media, thickening the plot.

Lizardo then posted a video on Twitter, in which she called Martínez’s accusations a “great infamy” and claimed to be willing to handle the issue “in all its consequences”.

“I want you to know that not as a mother, nor wife, nor first lady, will I allow garbage to be thrown at me, this is part of the campaign, as I understand it, and I have entered politics to change the way things are done and I am not going to let events like this one take place,” she said in the video.

Lizardo is now suing Martínez for defamation and slander.

Meanwhile, documents proving that Lizardo is not a client of Danske Bank have surfaced, proving that the first lady does not have money stashed away in Denmark. Dominican newspaper El Sol de Santiago featured Lizardo’s lawyer triumphantly holding the documents, signed by Johanna Ohlsson and Pontus Larsson from the Swedish branch of Danske Bank. The letter, seen at left, reads: "We hereby confirm that Margarita Maria Cedeño Lizardo has no relations with Danske Bank A/S, Denmark, Sweden branch."

The Copenhagen Post contacted Ohlsson, who confirmed that she did sign the letter and that Lizardo has no ties with Danske Bank whatsoever.

“The Dominican embassy in Stockholm – which is concurrent with Denmark and Finland – contacted us personally multiple times and asked us to clear this up,” Ohlsson said.

Martínez, however, remains firm on his accusation.

"It is ridiculous to want to show this document as a response to the accusation I made,” he told Dominican newspaper, El País. “What they have presented contradicts itself because before revealing this fact, they made it clear that they cannot disclose any client information."