Latvian government announces "substantial" anti- money laundering reform

Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš announced February 20 that he was giving officials just over one month to draw up "substantial" reforms to the anti- money laundering system currently operating in Latvia. 

Following a meeting of the Financial Sector Development Council, Kariņš announced the decision to implement "a substantial financial sector control reform" ordered the Ministers for Finance, Justice and the Interior to draw up a legislative package by 26 March to be put to the Cabinet of Ministers.

“I have been in my post for less than four weeks, but we have already come to a conclusion that in order to ensure a strong, stable and sustainable financial sector – the cornerstone for dynamic economy – we need to undertake a reform. We have to conduct an overhaul of the anti money laundering system to ensure the highest standards of supervision, regulation and transparency,” Prime Minister Kariņš said.

“I have tasked the Minister for Finance, the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for Justice with drawing up a legislative package for the reform of the financial sector by the end of March to strengthen the capacity of competent authorities, especially the Finance and Capital Market Commission (FKTK), to effectively combat money laundering and terrorism financing.

“Only by improving and strengthening the financial sector control in Latvia, we will we be able to comply with the Moneyval's recommendations and avoid being excluded from international financial markets.”

The Prime Minister has demanded solutions for improving FKTK's governance model, as well as changing the procedures for nominating and approving the financial watchdog's board.

In a subsequent tweet he said that "cosmetic improvements" in financial sector control are too little and that what what is required instead is "capital renovation".

Kariņš also asked for draft amendments to the Credit Institution Law to establish clear conditions for action to be taken by competent authorities in cases where a credit institution's activity is terminated due to money laundering and terrorism financing.

In addition he has asked for legislative recommendations for improving the tracking of where deposits originate from, by stipulating that a person must prove the legal origin of financial means.

Finally, Kariņš has asked the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior to "find a solution for unburdening the prosecutor's office, the police, and the court to ensure that they have the resources needed to address the investigation and adjudication of serious crimes, particularly in the field of combating money laundering and terrorism financing."

For a year since the collapse of ABLV bank in the wake of allegations of institutionalized money laundering from the U.S., Latvian officials have been scrambling to rebuild the image of the country's financial sector, but the announcement of such measures with a pressing timeframe suggests the pressure is continuing to grow and the pace of the crackdown must be picked up again.

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