Will pressure from the United States, fear of losing the last dollar correspondent account and an impending vote on admission into the OECD finally force Latvia to curb the laundering of dirty money for shady figures from the former Soviet Union via Latvia’s non-resident banks?
Last autumn two heads of influential security committees of the Latvian parliament had a rather unpleasant conversation with high ranking Treasury official in Washington.
Ainārs Latkovskis, head of the Latvia’s parliamentary Defense Committee, said in an interview with Re:Baltica, recounting a conversation with Treasury’s Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing Daniel Glaser:
“Although your country is small, and your administration is small, the amount of dollars going through your financial system is one per cent of all U.S. dollar transactions in the world. That’s hundreds and hundreds of millions. You must be able to control it. How you do it is up to you,”
A similar message awaited Latkovskis and Solvita Āboltiņa, head of the National Security Committee, at the Department of State. The need to finally start seriously clamping down on the stream of dirty millions flowing through Latvia, mostly from the former Soviet Union, was constantly mentioned by the new U.S. ambassador in each of her introductory visits to Riga. It was also brought to the attention of Latvia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs by close associates of the U.S. Secretary of State.
In January, 2016, the subject was raised in the U.S. Congress. When speaking about the $1 billion stolen from Moldova and the three Latvian banks, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said:
“These banks appear to be financial institutions controlled by associates and friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin who have a demonstrated history of plundering the national treasuries of the former CIS countries.”
She called upon the White House and the Congress to investigate whether the funds end up in the hands of terrorist organisations.
The risk now is for the country to be slapped in the face with a “no” from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which Latvia is eager to join, as well as the possibility of losing its last dollar correspondent account in a western financial institution that’s still cooperating with Latvian banks, and pressure from the U.S. are the reasons why the political elite and the banking supervisor of Latvia have suddenly awoken from lethargy.
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