Government talks up money laundering crackdown while Latvia link claimed to Malta murder

Latvia's government tried to talk up its ongoing efforts to clean up the country's banks June 10, releasing its latest update on the financial sector.

The update is headlined by a statement from Interior Minister Sandis Ģirģens which says  "I am pleased to say that the facts show that Latvia’s institutions have achieved convincing results. In the first five months of 2019, EUR 93.5 million of assets have been frozen to prevent money laundering, 3.5 times more than in the same period in 2018, and nearly as much as in the whole of 2018. We will continue to build on this success to ensure that Latvia enforces the highest standards in our financial sector."

As previously reported by LSM, the financial sector update was launched in August 2018 as part of an effort to convince the international community that Latvia no longer deserves its reputation as a money-laundering hub. 

However, the legacy of years of questionable practice within the boutique banking sector lingers on with the Times of Malta reporting the same day of a "possible Latvia link" to the murder of high-profile investigative journalist Caruana Galizia on 16 October 2017.

According to the newspaper, the family of Galizia has filed a 31-page report with Latvia’s Office for the Prevention of Laundering of Proceeds Derived from Criminal Activity naming members of an alleged money laundering network the murdered journalist had probed and which the family believes is connected to her murder. They also suggest a possible link to the murder of lawyer Martins Bunkus last year, which remains unsolved but has all the hallmarks of a professional hit job. 

"We hope that this report brings new evidence to light, helps authorities across Europe bring criminals to justice and helps authorities prevent more murders by taking action to end impunity for the crimes and criminal networks that Daphne Caruana Galizia investigated and exposed," the family said in a June 10 statement quotes by the Times of Malta, which also claimed that Latvia's ABLV bank was involved in money-laundering, a claim also made by U.S. regulators which led to the bank's collapse last year. It is still undergoing a liquidation process.

As previously reported by LSM, it is not the first time such a connection has been aired. 

Both Latvia and Malta have won unenviable reputations as money-laundering centers within EU borders. Back in 2014, ABLV was even offering advice to its clients from outside the European Union via a specialized subsidiary, ABLV Corporate Services, on the relative merits of obtaining Latvian and Maltese residency and/or citizenship for cash. 

"Having numerous advantages, citizenship in Malta allows dual citizenship, grants tax advantages and visa-free entry to over than 160 countries, ensures social securities, along with permanent residence in all EU states," ABLV said.

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