"Latvia has extensive and internationally recognized experience in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. Advancing the candidacy is an important contribution to strengthening the country's image and reputation, positioning Latvia as a safe investment and sustainable economic destination, and proves Latvia's ability and readiness to host an important EU agency and ensure its functionality and appropriate infrastructure," said a Finance Ministry release.
As recently reported by LSM, Latvia has hopes of transforming its former reputation as a money laundering hub into that of an anti-money laundering hub by tempting AMLA to choose Rīga as the location of its headquarters.
A promotional brochure and video have also been produced which outlines Rīga's offer. It names Talejas street (already home to the tax authority) and the Preses Nama Kvartāls as potential sites for AMLA to occupy.
"Latvia has had a unique experience with AML – once having been a hot spot for less-than-savory financial dealings, the system has been entirely reshaped to crack down on fi nancial crime. Because of its geographical location, Latvia is always in a state of vigilance (to a higher degree than other EU member states would have to be)," the brochure says.
However, Rīga will face stiff competition from many other European cities that are also bidding to host AMLA, including Frankfurt, Dublin, Madrid, Paris, Vienna, Rome and Vilnius, most of whom have been flagging up their bids for some time already. According to one anti-money laundering industry website, Dublin is considered a front runner.
According to the European Commission, the call for applications was sent to Member States on 28 September 2023. The deadline for Member States to submit their applications is 10 November 23 at 18:00. The demands upon canddiate locations are various and include a need that "the location enables the Authority to fully execute its tasks and powers, to recruit highly qualified and specialised staff, to offer adequate training opportunities for AML/CFT activities" and "[The] Existence of adequate education facilities for the children of AMLA’s staff" including the availability of multi-lingual, European-oriented schooling, including European, European accredited and international schools) and "Appropriate access to the labor market, social security and medical care for both children and spouses" of AMLA employees.
It is also requested that applications include information about "the terms for AMLA’s use of the premises, specifying monthly rental costs and whether the Member State would pay the rent for a given period of time or indefinitely."
AMLA’s staff is estimated to amount to 150 members in the first year and 250 members thereafter, but the future "could bring the staff possibly closer to 400 members" according to EC documentation.
The size of AMLA’s premises should be between 6,000 to 10,000 square meters gross floor area plus "sufficient parking space for staff and visitors". Indeed, the EC's wish list goes into quite a lot of detail, including "one very large meeting room with a total surface of ideally 240-280 m2 , with to the extent possible a table accommodating at least 50 persons at the front row, at least 60 persons at the second row and 30-40 seats on the sides in an auditorium mode."
In addition, the premises should "in principle offer the following additional meeting rooms and areas: two big meeting rooms (ideally seating more than 40 participants); two medium-sized meeting rooms (ideally seating 25-35 persons); one smaller meeting room (ideally seating 13-15 persons); an appropriate lounge area for lunch and/or dinner catering."