ABLV name crops up in deadly Maltese corruption investigation

Take note – story published 5 years ago

ABLV bank, the local Latvian bank which is currently liquidating itself in response to U.S. allegations of institutionalized money laundering, is making new international headlines as part of an ongoing investigation in Malta about corruption among senior officials.

International media attention has been focused on Malta since the murder in 2017 of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was probing high-level corruption in the EU member state.

Following the murder, journalists from across the world have teamed up to complete the investigation she instigated, calling it the ''Daphne Project" - and now the Times of Malta reports that the name of ABLV has cropped up in connection with the case.

According to the paper, a money transfer of $1.4 million dollars that plays a crucial role in the case, was sent via ABLV bank and various shell companies in 2015 to allegedly line the pockets of a powerful cadre of Maltese politicians and their associates.

According to a report obtained by the Daphne Project, US anti-money laundering authorities had identified transactions concerning a Dubai-registered company called 17 Black as possible "shell company activity, suspicious wire transfers and money laundering". While the transfers were noted by the U.S. and Maltese anti-money laundering agencies, they do not appear to have attracted any attention in Latvia until now.

The account at ABLV was held by a shell company registered in the Seychelles called Mayor Trans, owned by an Azeri businessman, according to the reports. All companies mentioned in the report have since been shut down.

The Times of Malta also made this video outlining the case available.

Coincidentally, Malta's Pilatus bank, which was suing Ms Caruana Galizia at the time of her death, was recently mentioned alongside ABLV bank as examples of the serious challenges European Union regulators and other authorities face in cracking down on shell companies and money-laundering. Both banks only came under scrutiny in Europe after American anti-money laundering agencies blew the whistle on them and announced sanctions.  

Pilatus' chairman, Seyed Ali Sadr Hasheminejad, was arrested in the US in March in connection with charges of money laundering aimed at breaching sanctions against Iran.

Meanwhile U.S. law enforcement holds ABLV responsible for breaking sanctions against North Korea and institutionalized money laundering on a massive scale.

Both Latvia and Malta have won unenviable reputations as money-laundering centers within EU borders. Back in 2014, ABLV was even offering advice to its clients from outside the European Union via a specialized subsidiary, ABLV Corporate Services, on the relative merits of obtaining Latvian and Maltese residency and/or citizenship for cash. 

"Having numerous advantages, citizenship in Malta allows dual citizenship, grants tax advantages and visa-free entry to over than 160 countries, ensures social securities, along with permanent residence in all EU states," ABLV said.

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