bnn.lv Latviski   bnn-news.com English   bnn-news.ru По-русски
Ceturtdiena 17.08.2017 | Name days: Oļegs, Vineta
LatviaLatvia

Charges raised against Rietumu Bank in money laundering case in France

FaceBook
Twitter
Draugiem
print
(No Ratings Yet)

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUCharges have been raised against Rietumu Bank and its governor, Aleksandr Pankov, in the massive criminal case regarding money laundering in France, as reported by De Facto programme of LTV. The main figure accused in this criminal case is the former head of France Offshore Nadav Bensoussan, who is called the King of Offshores in France.

The so-called Panama documents show that he was among Mossack Fonseca’s clients that had frequently used Rietumu Bank’s services.

Five years ago, a documentary was produced with an ironic title ‘We are all going to tax paradise’. This film followed Nadav Bensoussan’s path during his visit to Riga. The film showed Bensoussan demonstrating France Offshore’s advertisement stand at Riga Airport. After that, he visited the company’s local office in Old Riga. His next stop was Rietumu Bank’s main building on Vesetas Street. There he met with the bank’s Vice-Governor Ruslan Stecjuk.

Rietumu Bank no longer wishes to speak of any cooperation with France Offshore. The only response received from the bank’s press-secretary Eleonora Gailiša in regards to additional questions sent by email was: «Please explain which part of ‘Rietumu Bank will not provide any additional comments and replies’ you did not understand?»

The first news about Rietumu Bank’s ties to Bensoussan first appeared at the end of 2012. The media had reported that an employee of some Latvian bank’s representation in France had been arrested as part of the investigation France Offshore’s possible tax avoidance activities. The name of the Latvian bank was not revealed at the time. Nevertheless, it was clear that it was Rietumu Bank’s office in France.

Now it is known that the interrogated employee was the head of Rietumu Bank’s office in Paris Sergei Schuka. His name was mentioned by De Facto in its last week’s edition in regards to Panama documents. The leaked documents show that Nadav Bensoussan had provided instructions to Mossack Fonseca, specifically to the company’s Riga office manager Teo de Regibus, in 2007. Those instructions stated that the offshore company’s documents were to be sent to Rietumu Bank’s in Riga via courier service. Schuka’s name was mentioned on the envelope.

The investigation in France is now over – the case has been submitted to the prosecutor. Soon the final charges will become known. The case may be submitted to court at the end of the year. There are at least fifteen accused people in this case. Some of them are from Latvia, as French National Financial Crimes Deputy Prosecutor Ulrika Delaunay-Weiss told De Facto: «The judge has raised charges against Rietumu Bank, as well as Mr. Pankov, who is the bank’s governor in Latvia.»

Chairman of the Board of Rietumu Bank Aleksandr Pankov has appealed the charges raised against him in France’s Supreme Court of Justice – French legislation allows that. Rietumu Bank had previously appealed another procedural decision, but the plea was declined in the end. This meant paying EUR 20 million as bail. The bank did not carry out the payment. It was the reason why Pankov earned one of two accusations in 2014. «The first breach was the bank’s failure to exact the payment of EUR 20 million as bail. The second breach was the vice-president’s assistance in money laundering activities,» – said prosecutor Delaunay-Weiss.

The prosecution believes Nadav Bensoussan formed a group to help French residents to launder money using offshore companies. It happened in the period of 2006-2012. One of the banks that serviced offshore accounts was Rietumu Bank. The prosecutor did not mention any exact amounts of money processed by the group. Nevertheless, the French media had previously mentioned an amount somewhere around EUR 700 million and several hundred accounts. According to the prosecutor, it looks like Bensoussan has had a special partnership with Rietumu Bank.

Was the bank aware that Bensoussan’s actions were illegal? «This is the position of the investigative judge. This is why charges have been raised against the bank. He believes that the bank and certain officials were aware that the entire affair was one big money laundering scheme,» – added the prosecutor.

As soon as news about the investigation in Paris first surfaced, the Finance and Capital Market Commission announced its own investigation. Results of this investigation remain unknown, however. FCMC refuses to reveal them. It is also unknown, whether the penalties applied to Rietumu Bank in the last several years were related to France Offshore case.

When asked about the France Offshore Case, FCMC Council member Gvido Romeiko said: «We know a conflict exists. We currently maintain discussions with the bank. We see that one side has certain arguments. We also understand that the French investigative institution also has arguments in this case. We cannot say which side will win.»

It should be added that Rietumu Bank is also active on the securities market. At the end of 2012, the bank mentioned in its announcement in the exchange system: «Rietumu Bank has not received any complaints or criticisms from French law enforcement institutions as of yet. An employee of the bank has been interrogated as part of an ongoing investigation.»

There were no news about France Offshore from Rietumu Bank after that – nothing about any charges against the bank, nothing about the EUR 20 million bail or even the criticisms addressed to the chairman of the board. Did this not breach requirements listed in the Financial Instruments Market Law in regards to informing the exchange? FCMC monitors this field, as well. However, FCMC council member Yelena Lebedeva failed to provide a clear answer to this question: «There is one quantitative criterion for notable events – ten per cent of the bank or the issuer’s own equity. In this case, all amounts are smaller. With that, it is not possible to tell from the law’s viewpoint as to what should be reported. All conditions should be assessed in this case.»

FCMC council members also categorically deny that the treatment of Rietumu Bank is mild in comparison with smaller credit institutions. The commission also adds that it is an autonomous body. With that, there can be no political influence over it.

The ties of Rietumu Bank with politicians are clearly detailed on the website of the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau. The bank’s co-owners and hired employees have been regularly donating money to political parties for years.

Rietumu Bank’s Governor Aleksandr Pankov was also a member of the council of Latvian Commercial Banks Association at one point. He left this post after Rietumu Bank announced its decision to leave the association. The organization admits – they have heard of the problems in France. Nevertheless, no one in the organization had asked Rietumu Bank to leave.

«Any actions related to criminal actions or other activities create risks for the reputation for any institutions and individuals involved, as well as the industry in general,» – admits LKA public relations specialist Baiba Melnace. She adds that the situation is the same in any other industry; it is not specific only for the banking sector.

Ref: 102.109.109.8952


Leave a reply

Latvia’s export growth was moderately rapid in the first six months of 2017

Compared with the same period of 2016, Latvia experienced a moderately rapid export growth in the first six months of 2017, according to data published by Eurostat on Thursday, 17 August.

Latvia’s annual inflation in July was one of the highest in Europe

Inflation indexes in Latvia and the UK both reached 2.6% in July, which is one of the highest indexes in the European Union, according to data published by Eurostat on Thursday, 17 August.

Kirsis withdraws his candidacy in favour of Aseradens

Riga City Council member Vilnis Kirsis has decided to withdraw his candidacy from the race to become chairman of Unity in favour of a different candidate – Economy Minister Arvils Aseradens.

Rinkevics expresses Latvia’s interest in maintaining political consultations with Palestine

On Thursday, 17 August, Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkevics met with the leader of Palestine’s diplomatic mission in Latvia, ambassador Taissir Al Adjouri, to discuss mutual relations between Latvia and Palestine and the peace process in the Middle East.

Putin grins to the world’s seven billionth baby, Lithuania wary of border incidents

Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a visit this Wednesday to Kaliningrad, the westernmost point of Russia, but the reports about his trip in the Russian enclave and over the border in Lithuania were strikingly different.

Survey: red considered the safest colour for a car

Most Latvian drivers consider red to be the safest colour for a car. The most popular, however, is black, according to results of a survey by Virši-A fuel trader.

airBaltic’s number of carried passengers reaches a record in second consecutive month

Latvian airBaltic airline carried 393,312 passengers in July 2017, which is 21% more than the same period last year. The number of passengers carried by airBaltic remains the highest it has ever been in the airline’s history, BNN was informed by the company.

Brivais vilnis: nearly all fish processing companies are experiencing losses

Currently nearly all fish processing companies in Latvia are experiencing major or minor losses, says Brivais vilnis chairman Arnols Babris.

American helicopters to perform low-altitude flights within Latvia’s airspace

U.S. Air Force Brigade’s Task Force Phoenix helicopters, which are stationed in Latvia as part of Atlantic Resolve operation, will be performing low-altitude flights from 16:00 to 18:00 from Lielvarde to Dobele on Friday, 18 August.

Healthcare Ministry’s state secretary Karlis Ketners may be replaced

Latvian Healthcare Ministry may replace its state secretary Karlis Ketners. It is possible he will be transferred to work at Finance Ministry, as reported by LTV.

Suspects in Europe's insecticide egg scandal before Dutch court

In the Netherlands, two men have been in court in relation to the scandal of eggs containing banned insecticide that has caused an EU-wide health scare and cost millions of euros of damages.

Indian national with fake documents apprehended on Latvian border

An Indian citizen travelling from Moscow on a bus was caught at Terehovo border control point in Latvia for presenting officers a fake EU family member’s resident card. No criminal process was launched. The person returned to the country he was travelling from.

Latvijas dzelzceļš will not have to pay dividends from last year’s profits

The government decided on Wednesday, 16 August, that Latvijas dzelzceļš will not have to pay dividends from last year’s profits, which were EUR 880,998.

Latvian citizenship provided to 103 people

The Cabinet of Ministers has issued an order to provide Latvian citizenship to 103 people through naturalization.

Estonian Inbank's profits reach EUR 5.7 million in six months

Estonian financial services' provided Inbank made a profit of 5.7 million euros in the first half of 2017, which is a 429.4% increase compared to the respective period in 2016.

Agriculture Ministry invites residents to sign up for measures to support fisheries

From 21 August onward, Rural Support Service plans to start accepting applications for projects to receive support from European Maritime and Fisheries Fund’s action plan for development of fisheries in 2014-2020 as part of projects Innovation, Productive Investments in Aquaculture and Fishing and Aquaculture project processing.

Estonia seeks to improve reputation of state as employer

As the Estonian Ministry of Finance wishes to boost the reputation and brand of the Baltic country's public sector, it has announced a procurement tender aimed at preparing an action plan for reaching these goals.

Warning: there may be short-term problems with Swedbank internet banking functionality

Because of Swedbank’s planned IT modernization work scheduled for the night to Thursday, 17 August, there may be short term problems with payment card and internet banking functionality, the bank warns.

Aseradens: neither Usakovs nor Lembergs should be allowed to become prime minister

If he became chairman of Unity, Economy Minister Arvils Aseradens would mobilize democratic forces to prevent the possibility of either Aivars Lembergs or Nils Usakovs becoming prime ministers, Aseradens said in an interview to 900 seconds programme of LNT.

Caksa believes increasing wages for doctors would improve politicians’ credibility

The planned wage increase in healthcare could be the first step towards improving politicians’ credibility, says Healthcare Minister Anda Caksa.

Bill Gates donates USD 4.6 billion, reduces shares in Microsoft

The co-founder of the U.S. computer software firm Microsoft, Bill Gates, has allocated to charity 4.6 billion U.S. dollars (3.9 billion euros), which is the philanthropist's highest donation since the year 2000.

LOSP proposes using electronic packing slip system to reduce fraud

An electronic packing slip system for goods would be invaluable for agricultural goods, because it would help push out and reduce VAT fraud, says Latvian Agricultural Organisation Cooperation Council.

Latvia and Russia agree on exchange of additional 3,000 universal permits for cargoes

Latvia and Russia will exchange 7,000 universal permits for international cargo transports in 2017. This will be the largest universal permit volume in the past 15 years, as reported by Road Directorate.

Sierra Leone hit by tragic mudslide

A tragic mudslide has taken place in Sierra Leone, where flooding in the capital Freetown caused a mudslide, in which nearly 400 people have been have died.

Talks with potential KVV Liepājas metalurgs buyers to conclude in August

Talks with potential buyers of the insolvent KVV Liepājas metalurgs will conclude at the end of August, says representative of the company’s insolvency administrator Dzintars Hmielevskis.