Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Latvia ABLV Bank linked to multiple money-laundering probes

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The State Police Economic Crimes Unit (ENAP) has begun 50 criminal procedures regarding possible money laundering through ABLV Bank, according to the State Police on March 6.

Many involve illegal activity by clients, and in many instances the bank aided in uncovering the activity. Around 10 procedures involve bank employees and authorities possibly aiding or abetting money laundering. One such case was taken over by the specialized Organized Crimes Prosecution Office.

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The main procedure included in the documentation will begin after the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) report, which will evaluate the operations of ABLV Bank management and as a credit institution. It will attempt to uncover whether the bank’s infrastructure was used to systematically launder money from Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Russia, among other countries.

In cases where individuals are believed to be responsible for money laundering the procedures are sent to the country where the person under suspicion is detained. Frequently beforehand the decision is made whether to return the illegal funds to the legitimate owners or confiscate the funds on behalf of the state. In cases where bank employees are involved a settlement is reached in Latvia.

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Police emphasized that the investigations are difficult, because money laundering and terrorism financing regulations are relatively new. Despite international cooperation, investigations are frequently hindered by the involved persons. Tens of witnesses have been questioned, several thousand account statements are being analyzed and 57 requests for legal aid have been sent out.

As previously reported, in January law enforcement agencies, including the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB), conducted searches at the ABLV Bank building in Rīga in connection with suspicions that at least EUR 50 million may have been laundered by the bank between 2015 and 2018 when it collapsed following U.S, Treasury allegations that it was involved in money-laundering on a grand scale.

Also reported, in 2018 Latvia’s financial regulator, the Financial and Capital Market Commission (FKTK) announced it had decided to allow ABLV bank to undergo a process of self-liquidation. The decision came three months after ABLV made an application to do so in the wake of money-laundering allegations by the U.S. financial authorities.

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