US charges Latvian ABLV Bank with money laundering

  • Martin Macq
  • 21.2.2018 19:21

On 19 February, the European Central Bank (ECB) instructed Latvia’s Financial and Capital Markets Commission to impose a moratorium on the country's ABLV Bank. The reason for this is that the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has accused the bank of helping North Korea circumvent Western sanctions by laundering money US authorities believe is linked to Pyongyang's missile and nuclear programs.

After FinCEN’s 13 February report, the US announced its intention to impose sanctions against ABLV Bank and block its access to US markets, thus prompting its depositors to withdraw from the bank a sum of €600 million, the bank’s chairman Ernests Bernis announced. US sanctions are also linked to ABLV's alleged illegal activities in Azerbaijan, Russia and Ukraine, where the bank is further accused of facilitating transactions involving corruption-linked financial resources. In addition to this, Latvia’s central bank governor Ilmars Rimsevics was charged with bribery on 17 February, undermining the credibility of the entire Latvian banking system. It is not yet clear whether the two cases are somehow connected. Under these circumstances, Latvian banks have called upon European regulators, especially the ECB, to intervene and help them cope with the country’s deepening bank crisis.

About author: Martin Macq

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