Latvian banks still laundering money, say U.S. officials

Partners in the United States have told the Latvian government they believe Latvian banks are still involved in money laundering schemes, despite recent drastic action taken against ABLV bank that sent it into liquidation, Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola told reporters February 8 after a meeting with U.S. Department of Treasury Assistant Secretary Marshall Billingslea.

Billingslea is in Latvia to discuss cooperation in cleaning up Latvia's banking sector which has been implicated in numerous large-scale money laundering schemes in recent years.

"We are being told that banks are still used to transfer funds associated with persons, companies or countries on which sanctions have been imposed. However, our partners in the United States have not yet provided the facts. It was made clear during the meeting that problems still exist in the financial sector," Reizniece-Ozola told journalists.

"The risks have to be reduced as quickly as possible. Banks must realize that they have to give up this dangerous type of business. Either they have to change their business methods or fold," she added.

Billingslea himself was reluctant to speak when doorstepped by LTV's Karlis Roke (above) other than to say he was having productive meetings and could not comment on law enforcement matters. He was accompanied to the meeting by U.S. ambassador to Latvia Nancy Bikoff Pettit.

Despite making a long list of allegations against ABLV bank including that it laundered money for North Korea's nuclear program and had "institutionalized" money laundering as a core business practice, the U.S. authorities have yet to release any evidence backing up their claims.


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