Nine candidates entered the competition to lead the Office for Prevention of Laundering of Proceeds Derived from Criminal Activity (FIU) and after evaluation by a commission headed by the Director of the State Chancellery, Jānis Citskovskis and including members from the
Prosecutor General's Office, Ministry of Finance, Financial and Capital Market Commission, Security police, Constitutional Protection Bureau and the Latvian central bank.
The applications from the remaining four candidates will now be forwarded to the Prosecutor General, Eriks Kalnmeiers, who has been empowered with making a decision on who, if anyone, will get the job. The department comes under the remit of the Prosecutor General's Office.
The Office for Prevention of Laundering of Proceeds Derived from Criminal Activity receives, processes, and analyses reports on unusual and suspicious financial transactions and provides this information to control, pre-trial investigation, and court authorities as well as to the Prosecutor’s Office.
However, it does not itself have regulatory power over financial institutions (this is carried out by the Financial and Capital Market Commission) and nor does it carry out its own prosecutions, which are handled by prosecutors and police.
It can order the freezing of assets suspected of being the proceeds of money-laundering.
Crucially however, it does have the task "to co-operate with international and foreign authorities, which are engaged in the prevention of money laundering and terrorism financing," within its remit, and with U.S. authorities clearly unhappy with Latvia's track record on combating money-laundering, a shake-up at the institution is not surprising.
Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis instructed the State Chancellery to organize the competition as part of his efforts to show Latvia is serious about cleaning up its banking sector, with the competition format intended to show that the appointment would not be a matter of inserting a compliant ''placeman'' into the system but someone whose credentials and ambitions should mean more will be done to root out money-laundering than what are perceived as lackluster efforts of recent years.
The winner of the competition will replace outgoing anti-money laundering chief Viesturs Burkans who has been in the job since 1998.
The department in 2017 sent 225 orders to law enforcement agencies for reasonable suspicion of committing a criminal offense. Of these, 202 orders were under Article 195 of the Criminal Law on money laundering. 53 such cases involved amounts exceeding 1 million euros. In 2016, 252 orders were issued.
None of the remaining candidates' names have been released, but it is expected that when a decision is taken, the names will be released to show a genuine competition took place.