Finance Minister: Anti-money laundering office has been the weakest link

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Latvia's top anti-money laundering institution, the Office for the Prevention of Laundering of Proceeds Derived from Criminal Activity (Control Service), has for many years been the weakest link among the country's safeguards against the funneling of illicit proceeds.

That's what Latvia's Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola (Greens and Farmers Union) said appearing on LTV August 24.

The Control Service is now headed by Ilze Znotiņa, who replaced Viesturs Burkāns at the post after ABLV Bank folded itself following accusations by the US Department of Finance. Burkāns had been at the post for 20 years.

Reizniece-Ozola also used the interview to say that Latvia has a year to shake up its anti-money laundering capacities following the publication of the Moneyval report, or else the country may be gray listed and have its credit ratings lowered.

She also criticized the lack of real jail terms handed for financial crimes. 

"Out of the reports which were handed from the Control Service to the Finance Police by 2013, a total of 53 -- every single one -- were handed to the prosecutor for starting a criminal case, but... 30 of them resulted in a suspended sentence, 17 were fines in the area of several minimal wages, and 6 - community service. 

"There has not been a single real jail term... It's evident we don't realize the gravity of financial crimes and we are unable or unwilling to impose deterring penalties for these crimes," she said. 

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