Latvia named in billion-dollar Moldova scam investigation

Latvian banks were used to launder an incredible BILLION dollars stolen from Moldova, according to an independent report from financial investigators Kroll, CNN and other media report. 

The report was commissioned by the Moldovan Central Bank as public outrage demanded to know how a figure equivalent to 12% of the country's entire GDP could disappear.

LSM reported last year on links to an alleged mega-scam and the detail of the Kroll report is persuasive. In one three-day period alone, $767 million (€687m) disappeared from Moldovan coffers.

The sheer scale of the money leaking from the country led to the Moldovan Central Bank  giving emergency bailouts to three commercial banks.

How such massive transactions could have failed to alert the Latvian regulatory authorities that something strange was afoot remains a mystery, though the fact that the alleged perpetrators of the scam used a system of offshore shell companies seems to have been enough to throw them off the scent.  

The report talks of "a complex series of transactions, whereby loan funds were passed amongst the [Russian and Moldovan] banks, between entities, via foreign entities using Latvian bank accounts."

Usually these bank accounts were held by UK-registered Limited Partnerships, also raising serious questions about the UK's level of responsibility.

The Latvian banks named in the report are ABLV Bank (also known as Aizkraukles Bank for some transactions), PrivatBank and Latvijas Pasta Bank.

The full Kroll report can be read online here and details dozens of multi-million-dollar transactions.

The main figure behind the enormous fraud is likely to be 28-year-old Moldova businessman Ilan Shor, the report suggests.

Other figures known in the murky world of offshore companies also feature, including Andrew Moray Stuart, a Briton linked to transactions made in connection with the notorious Magnitsky case in Russia.

Cypriot Marios Papantoniou, who has been mentioned previously in media reports concerning alleged money laundering by Latvian banks, also makes an appearance, as does Alise Ilsley, a Latvian national.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the report is its evidence that transfers were being made as late as November 2014 - well after news of the Latvia-Moldova money laundering connection had broken in international media.

Latvia has been one of the staunchest supporters of Moldova's efforts to join the European Union - but the sight of billions of dollars disappearing into thin air via Latvian banks threatens to sour the relationship.

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Economy
Economy