Clean financial sector in Latvia a "national security issue" says U.S. official

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United States Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan was in Latvia February 22 for a series of high-level meetings.

Speaking alongside Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs, Sullivan confirmed that April 3 will see a meeting of all three Baltic Presidents with President Donald J Trump in Washington D.C.

"The summit has been in the works for some time, we're working on it diligently in Washington in consultation with our colleagues in Riga, Vilnius and Tallinn and we're very much looking forward to it as well as the foreign ministers' conference on March 5," said Sullivan.

"This summit is a testimony to the strength and vibrancy of the relationship between the United States and the three Baltic nations," he added, saying it would mark the U.S.' commitment to the region "for the next hundred years."

But recent shock developments in Latvia's financial and banking sector, prompted in part by U.S. Treasury claims of institutionalized money laundering by ABLV bank, was the main topic on the  minds of reporters.

"Security threats can take many forms, including corruption and attempts to undermine the integrity of the financial system," said Sullivan.

"We're pleased to see the Latvian authorities taking decisive steps to investigate illicit activity and corruption in the banking sector. The United States stands by Latvia and will fully support its effort to establish a well-regulated and thriving banking sector.

"Our work across the U.S. government... is extensive, is wide-ranging, and I want to reaffirm that the Unites States is working in partnership with Latvia to address the issues that were discussed in the FinCEN report and more generally in supporting Latvia's effort to fight corruption and reform its financial institutions. It's not merely a question of creating a better environment for economic prosperity for Latvia, it's also a national security issue." 

Rinkēvičs said with regard t the financial scandals: "Whoever must be prosecuted will be prosecuted" and that there was very close cooperation between law enforcement agencies on the matter with the U.S. side supplying some details that had not previously been at the disposal of Latvian authorities and that a high-level visit from a U.S. Treasury representative was expected in March.

"As far as our regulator [FKTK] has informed us, they had a very thorough process of analyzing the data they have received and they have a legal framework they are operating within... not all the facts that they have received, probably were at their disposal - that's the information I have got from the chairman - ...and I am absolutely confident that appropriate action will be taken," said Rinkēvičs. 

On Russia, Sullivan said that while the U.S. and its allies recognized the threat posed, "at the same time we recognize the importance of cooperation with Russia where it is in our mutual interest."

Following the meeting at the Foreign Ministry, Sullivan left for a meeting with President Raimonds Vējonis at which the subject of the banks was again on the agenda.

"It is essential for Latvia to restore the reputation of our financial sector. Work will continue to build a strong and well-monitored financial sector," the President said.


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