Published: Wed, February 21, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Latvian Premier Says Norvik Banka Seeks to Hurt Country's Image

Latvian Premier Says Norvik Banka Seeks to Hurt Country's Image

The anti-corruption agency says the criminal investigation is not related to money-laundering accusations levelled against the country's third largest bank, ABLV, by the US Treasury.

Mr Guselnikov claimed that Mr Rimsevics told him that the financial regulator was loyal to him personally, and that he used that to threaten his bank with regulatory measures.

Some of the money looted from the Russian state by corrupt officials in a fraud uncovered in the mid-2000s by Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer later beaten to death in a Russian prison, passed through the Latvian banking system.

Nonetheless, the dramatic headlines came as a shock to a country which has long-advertised itself as somewhat of a financial bridge between Europe's west and east.

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The ECB said the ABLV's finances had deteriorated after Washington took action against the bank earlier this month over concerns about money laundering and activities linked to North Korea's weapons programme.

In an interview broadcast on Tuesday, Mr Rimševics said the allegation, made against him by the Russian owner of a Latvian bank, marked a "very important moment" for Latvia as a whole.

At a news conference, Mr Rimsevics said "my retreat would allow a man like Guselnikov to triumph".

"At least at the present time, I can not rule out that the relevant bank statement is to be considered only as an attempt to disrupt the reputation of the Latvian state", the premier said.

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Mr Rimsevics is also on the highest policy-making council of the European Central Bank, which sets monetary policy for the 19 euro countries.

The confusing, rival claims of wrongdoing will deepen worries about the transparency of parts of Latvia's banking sector, which have close financial links to former colonial master Russian Federation. "This means that the latter's financial risks will not be transfered over to Estonia", the Financial Supervision Authority said. ABLV has rejected FinCEN's allegations. That prompted the European Central Bank to tell Latvia to freeze payments by ABLV after some of the bank's clients fled.

Before the ECB's decision ABLV Bank was able to settle all payments, except for payments in United States dollars.

It said similar operations, aimed at influencing elections, had been seen in France, Germany and the US. Without a credible plan, supervisors could declare the bank failing or likely to fail and hand the case over to the Single Resolution Board.

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A number of other small Latvian banks have been fined in recent years for breaching money laundering rules and terrorism funding legislation, including Norvik Bank. Five Latvian banks agreed past year to pay fines for failing to perform adequate due diligence and gather sufficient information on transactions and beneficiaries of deals linked to North Korea. It noted that while no other nation has prohibited correspondent banking relationships with ABLV, Latvia's Financial Capital and Market Commission had conducted an examination and issued a fine.

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