Estonia is currently at risk of getting listed as a country subject to enhanced surveillance where money laundering is concerned, finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) said on Friday.
“Estonia is slated for a new Moneyval evaluation at the beginning of 2021. This time, what will be evaluated is how we are implementing different laws and regulations in practice, and what the capability of our institutions is to actually engage in combating money laundering. We need to make an effort as a state, because the present situation may not be good enough to pass the evaluation successfully,” Helme said in a press release.
Moneyval is the commonly used name of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism. The committee is a permanent body of the council and regularly evaluates member states.
“It seems to me than several state institutions are underestimating the potential risk that in 2021 Estonia may indeed find itself on the list of countries under enhanced surveillance,” Helme stressed.
According to the minister, there would be consequences for the country’s reputation, the financial environment, and also the related administrative burden.
Estonia’s own committee on the prevention of money laundering and terrorist finance in its meeting on Wednesday focused on three main topics, namely the analysis of the money laundering cases of 2007 to 2014, further developing the legislative base to fight against such schemes, and a domestic risk assessment as well as preparations for the coming Moneyval evaluation.
Helme, who heads the Estonian committee, said that it is important to understand what actually happened in the Estonian banking sector in that time period, and why the various control mechanisms did not work well enough.
Concerning the legislative side, the committee was given an overview of the progress in implementing the EU’s Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD-V). Several necessary legislative initiatives, such as a steep increase in fines to be meted out to businesses for money laundering, are already in the making, with another bill to amend the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act to be ready by the end of the month.
The Riigikogu has until the end of the year to adopt the necessary legislation to implement the directive.
The governmental committee for the prevention of money laundering and terrorist finance brings together officials from the Tax and Customs Board, the Office of the Prosecutor General, the security authorities, the Bank of Estonia, and the Financial Supervision Authority.