US seeks to sanction Latvian bank ABLV over money laundering
15 Feb 2018

The United States has issued a notice seeking to blacklist ABLV, which it says is a bank of ‘prime money laundering concern’ that facilitates illicit cash transactions for sanctioned individuals and North Korea’s procurement or export of ballistic missiles.

According to the Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), ABLV has ‘institutionalized money laundering as a pillar of the bank’s business practices.’

Management also allow the bank and staff to ‘orchestrate money laundering schemes’ as well as to ‘solicit high-risk shell company activity’ that enables the bank and its customers to launder funds.

Fincen also accused ABLV of maintaining ‘inadequate controls over high-risk shell company accounts,’ and of seeking to prevent enforcement of Latvian anti-money laundering and counter terrorism funding (AML/CFT) rules in order to ‘protect these business practices.’

“Illicit financial activity at the bank includes transactions for parties connected to UN-designated entities, some of which are involved in North Korea’s procurement or export of ballistic missiles.”

“In addition, ABLV has facilitated transactions for corrupt politically exposed persons and has funneled billions of dollars in public corruption and asset stripping proceeds through shell company accounts,” said Fincen.

ABVL has denied the allegations, which it said are based on assumptions and information that is currently unavailable to the bank.

Regarding North Korea, the bank said the regulator had initiated an administrative matter and in November 2017 a Settlement Agreement was concluded.

“After a six-month inspection, the following conclusion was provided: ‘There were no violations of international, including European Union, sanctions, national sanctions of the Republic of Latvia, as well as sanctions imposed by the USA, detected in the operation of the Bank”.

In addition, its “internal control system in the field of the prevention of money laundering, terrorism financing and circumvention of sanctions, as well as the implemented control solutions have been audited and inspected both by the regulator and by international auditors,” it said.

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