Incoming anti-money laundering chief demands independence

The likely new head of the Kontroles dienests (Control department, KD), which is responsible for combating money-laundering, is demanding the institution be made independent as a condition for accepting the job, Prime Minister Maris Kučinskis said May 10.  

Speaking on LTV's Morning Panorama show, the premier said lawyer Ilze Znotiņa was prepared to lead the institution but wanted it to become independent of control by the Prosecutor General's office, to which it is currently subservient.

"I think we completely agree on what direction we want to see the Control department taking," Kučinskis said, adding that he and Znotiņa agreed the instutition would take on "independent status" and start a new direction.

"This will be a new start," he said.

Kučinskis signalled his readiness to instigate the change - via yet another working group - and said he expected Znotiņa would start work on June 1.

In addition it appeared that a further condition set by Znotiņa is that the current head of the Control department, Viesturs Burkans, does not become her immediate deputy.

The prime minister said that while Znotiņa respected Burkans' experience, "it would be good if he stayed working within the service but not as a deputy."

Burkans has been head of the KD for 20 years, including the last decade when a series of massive money-laundering scandals have shattered confidence in the non-resident banking sector and sent officials on a last-ditch effort to prove they are finally cleaning up the sector to shed Latvia's reputation as a major money-laundering hub.

As reported by LSM, Prosecutor General Eriks Kalnmeiers called a press conference earlier this week at which he said the unnamed winner of the contest to become head of KD was demanding more time to consider the job offer.

According to a Latvian Radio report on May 9, Kalnmeiers has been attempting to engineer a situation in which Burkans would become Znotiņa's immediate deputy - a move which Znotiņa appears to have effectively resisted. 

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