OECD to audit Latvia's finance watchdogs

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will carry out an audit of Latvia's finance authorities, the Financial and Capital Markets Commission (FKTK) and the Office for Prevention of Laundering of Proceeds Derived from Criminal Activity (FIU), reports Latvian Radio April 25. 

That's what Latvia's Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola told the press following a meeting with high-ranking officials, the Finance Sector Development Council.

While specific goals and the scope of the audit are to be agreed upon in early May, it's clear that the OECD will audit the operating principles and structure of both the FKTK and the FIU, in order to understand as to whether they have all they need to combat money laundering in Latvia.

"We need quality not speed," said the minister when probed as to how long the said audit will take.

The minister stressed that the OECD will not audit decisions these institutions have taken in the past. This is instead to be undertaken by the European Banking Authority. 

Meanwhile the US' Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) have also offered help to Latvia in getting its finance system right. 

"FinCEN representatives will arrive in Rīga in the early summer, after evaluating the current situation in the finance sector, in order to obtain a systemic view over the capabilities to investigate financial crime in Latvia," Reizniece-Ozola said. 

On April 25 the FKTK informed the Finance Sector Development Council over the shrinking numbers of non-resident clients at Latvia's banks. This figure has now shrunk to 25%. "Banks operating in Latvia are actively working on reducing the number of high-risk clients. The data show there's been substantial progress [in this area]," she said. 

Latvia is scrambling to show it is serious about cleaning up its banks after the United States announced swingeing sanctions against ABLV bank in mid-February that forced the bank into liquidation.

A series of money-laundering scandals involving boutique banks over more than a decade produced only a limited response from the Latvian authorities, but the action taken by the U.S. has kick-started a shakeup and what amounts to a race against the clock to sort out the sector or see Latvian banks given pariah status, with serious knock-on effects for the economy as a whole.

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