U.S. Treasury's Billingslea in Rīga: changes are "long overdue"

Marshall Billingslea, the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury was in Rīga May 16 to talk about Latvia's ongoing efforts to clean up its banking sector in the wake of the collapse of ABLV bank last year and several other scandals related to sanctions-busting and other issues.

Billingslea leads the Treasury's Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes to counter money laundering, terrorist financing, WMD proliferation, and other criminal and illicit activities.

Speaking after meeting with Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš, Billingslea said: "Most importantly the United States and the Treasury in particular places great stock in the commitments that you have made, the direction you are taking the country in with the reform of the financial sector and we are here to support you."

"The commitment to enact all of the necessary, urgently needed legislation - long overdue legislation - is something that we take away as a very positive signal and we look forward to supporting you." 

"The key question is whether we're doing enough together to combat systemic money laundering... not just having sufficient laws and regulations on the book, but whether we have sufficient capacity to combat money laundering, and most vitally do we have the political will to do so. With this prime minister I can say we are, in the United States, absolutely convinced there is the political will to fight money laundering in Latvia," he added, in what amounted to a ringing endorsement of Kariņš' approach so far.

Indeed he repeatedly referred to the current measures as "long overdue" in a clear hint that the attitude of Kariņš predecessors could have been considerably more pro-active.

There was also thinly veiled criticism of the Financial and Capital Markets Commission (FKTK) following an extraordinary to-and-fro that took place between the Treasury and Latvia's financial regulator earlier this week, as reported by LSM

"The prime minister and I just discussed a few moments ago truthfulness and integrity as central characteristics that we must share in the fight against corruption and the embassy's statement on this matter speaks for itself," said Billingslea, adding his belief that it was the U.S. "clear preference" that Latvia effectively regulates its own financial markets. 

The full media briefing is available to watch online (in Latvian).

 

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