Latvia investigates complaint linking bank to Russian fraud
26 Jun 2018

Latvian authorities say they are examining an allegation that a failed bank handled money from a Russian fraud uncovered by Bill Browder, an investor campaigning to expose corruption.

ABLV shut this year after the United States Treasury alleged money laundering at Latvia’s third largest bank, plunging the Baltic state into financial and political crisis.

Riga responded by tightening controls on a dozen Latvian banks which had promoted themselves as a gateway to Western markets for customers largely in Russia, but also in Ukraine and Moldova, promising Swiss-style secrecy.

Browder, who leads a campaign against Russian officials he blames for the 2009 death of his Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky while investigating fraud, has alleged there was a link to ABLV.

“We have filed complaints with Latvian authorities with evidence showing the connection of multiple accounts at ABLV to the $230 million fraud uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky,” Browder, whose Hermitage Capital Management was once the biggest foreign money manager in Russia, told Reuters.

Ilze Znotina, who leads Latvia’s anti money laundering agency, said officials were now looking into the complaint against ABLV, which denies any wrongdoing.

Browder’s complaint, backed by anti-corruption campaigning group Transparency International, will heighten scrutiny of how depositors are paid out as ABLV is wound down.

The process which has been left largely to the bank itself, with oversight from the Latvian regulator, and is already being watched closely by senior U.S. officials.

A spokeswoman for Latvia’s Financial and Capital Market Commission said ABLV’s liquidation would have “control elements to prevent any laundering of proceeds from fraud”.

BLIND EYE

In addition to his 16-page letter of complaint from June 13, which he also sent to European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, Browder has compiled a detailed dossier seen by Reuters.

The ECB declined to comment.

Browder’s lawyer Magnitsky was arrested after alleging Russian officials were involved in fraud, but died in a Moscow prison after complaining of mistreatment and after essential medical care was withheld.

– By John O’Donnell, Reuters, 22 June 2018

Link to Reuters.

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