Financial regulator: SWIFT payment system is operating normally

Latvia's financial regulator, the Financial and Capital Markets Commission (FKTK) released a statement on the evening of November 28 insisting that the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) international payment system was operating normally in Latvia, in an apparent rebuttal of statements made by Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola on November 27.

Reizniece-Ozola had told the Saeima's budget commission that Latvia could be included on a list of high-risk countries kept by SWIFT and that international payments could experience significant delays as a result.

"[We are] Not yet on the gray list, [but] our businessmen see the effects of what's happening in the financial sector. Foreign transfers that used to take days or a few hours sometimes take more than a week. Why? Because all banks use one of the international transfer systems, such as SWIFT for payments, and SWIFT currently has Latvia as a high-risk country. If there is a large amount or more unusual transactions for one of our companies, SWIFT will carry out additional verification. It takes time and it means costs for the businesses," the Finance Minister had told newly-elected parliamentarians.

However, FKTK flatly contradicted this assertion, saying that SWIFT keeps no such list of high-risk countries, nor does it carry out such checks, and that after consulting with SWIFT and the Latvian Central Bank, all SWIFT transactions were taking place as normal.

Without referring to Reizniece-Ozola directly in the statement, FKTK chairman Pēters Putniņš offered a clear critique of her understanding of the situation, saying:

"It is important to understand what SWIFT is before making public statements. It is an organization that provides banks with an exchange of messages for their communications networks. This process takes place within a few seconds - the SWIFT system delivers payment messages to the beneficiary bank immediately on the SWIFT network. 

"SWIFT has never and does not perform any AML [Anti Money Laundering] checks or screening of banks and does not hold payments. SWIFT enables banks to exchange orders in relation to various types of financial transactions, including interbank and bank customer payment messages, in a secure and standardized way. "

"I really appeal to anyone who intends to publish information that may harm the international reputation of our country or, in particular, affect such a sensitive industry as the financial sector and its stable and unhindered operation, to check every fact before spreading Irresponsible statements about unexplained facts that create a false impression about our country, the Latvian banking sector and the work already done in strengthening the international reputation of the Latvian financial sector," Putniņš added, again without specifying whether the counterblast were directed at Reizniece-Ozola or those news outlets who had reported her comments, which were obviously of particular interest to financial newswires, as the finance ministers of countries generally being considered important sources of information.

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