Anti-corruption chief evasive over meeting with US official

It is likely that Marshall Billingslea, Assistant Secretary at the US Department of Treasury, has provided Latvia's anti-graft authorities with information over corruption in the Latvian banking sector during his visit in Latvia last week, reported LTV's De Facto March 11.

However, following a meeting with Billingslea, Jēkabs Straume, the head of Latvia's Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB), was evasive over what exactly the bureau learned during Billingslea's visit.

Straume called his discussion with Billingslea "fruitful". The US official did not offer public comment, saying that ABLV Banka, which the US authorities singled out as carrying out "institutionalized money laundering" and which is now in the process of liquidation, has 60 days to refute allegations over bribery of public officials and facilitating transactions related to sanctioned North Korea.

De Facto observed that Billingslea met Straume and other KNAB employees on Friday. "They provided us with information, but I won't be able to discuss the content," Straume told De Facto.

Straume had this to say when asked whether the information KNAB received is related to bribery allegations within the report on ABLV Bank by the United States Treasury:

"The information that the US provided to KNAB is classified. We can neither disclose, nor comment it. We can only affirm that the US provided substantial information and that our discussions were fruitful.".

The De Facto story notes that last year KNAB was cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, when a whopping five Latvian banks were fined for transactions related to the North Korean nuclear program.

While on March 12 Prosecutor General Ēriks Kalnmeiers told LTV's Rīta Panorāma show that the US admonitions over problems in combating money laundering amount to a reproach to the whole Latvian state.

"It's a red card against the whole state body," he told LTV. "Were there control mechanisms in place, that were adequate for the size of the financial sector? I'd say no," he said

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