bnn.lv Latviski   bnn-news.com English   bnn-news.ru По-русски
Monday 24.04.2017 | Name days: Nameda, Visvaldis, Ritvaldis
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

Week in Lithuania. Imports from Belarus' Astravyets NPP restricted

Seimas on Thursday, April 20, adopted a bill to restrict electricity imports from the Astravyets nuclear power plant under construction in Belarus and other unsafe nuclear facilities in third countries.

Wider economic cooperation between Latvia and Singapore planned

As reported by Finance Ministry, work will be performed to establish wider economic cooperation between Latvia and Singapore, both in the field of tax administration and investments.

Lange: poor road quality causes drivers to lose more than one billion euros every year

Poor road quality in Latvia causes losses for drivers worth more than one billion euros every year, announced Janis Lange, chairman of Latvijas valsts ceļi, at an annual conference on Friday, 21 April.

Latvia and Lithuania continue work on single gas market’s development plan

Latvia and Lithuania continue working on single gas market development plan, BNN was told by Latvian Economy Ministry.

Belarus values Latvia’s experience developing e-management

Belarus values Latvia’s positive experience in development of e-management. Constructive cooperation in this field has provided residents in Latvia and Belarus with cheaper roaming tariffs and improved mobile broadband development, as reported by Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry.

Poor skills in digital technologies can reduce one’s competitiveness on the market

Only 2% of board members in Latvia’s leading retail trade companies have skills working with digital technologies. The same applies to 6% of board members in transport and logistics companies, 4% - in energy companies and 0% in manufacturing companies, according to results of a study performed by personnel selection company Amrop.

Government decides not to support Ventspils’ involvement in Nord Stream 2

This week, Latvian government decided behind closed doors not to support the involvement of Ventspils Freeport in the Nord Stream 2 project, according to publicly available information.

Estonia to invest millions in IT and technology business development in regions

Close to 160 million euros are planned to be invested in developing the sector of information and communications technologies in Estonia outside larger cities, according to a state budget strategy for 2018-2021 by the Estonian government.

Bite buys Unistars and gains access to 5G frequency

Mobile communications operator Bite has bought telecommunications company Unistars, making a major step towards introducing 5G network in Latvia, as reported by Bite manager Kaspars Buls.

Study: Latvian businessmen feel threatened the most by increasing tax burden

Nearly all Latvian CEOs expect competition to grow in the future. In addition, this will happen in conditions of deficit of qualified workers, according to results of a study performed by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Court in Russia bans Jehovah's Witnesses as extremist organisation

The Supreme Court of Russia has accepted a request by the country’s Justice Ministry to term Jehovah's Witnesses as an outlawed religious organisation - best known for going door-to-door looking for new converts -, considering it to be an extremist group.

Progress in the realization of insolvency reform in Latvia

New regulations listed in the Insolvency Law provide for increasing the role of creditors in the choice of figures supervising legal protection processes, as well as enhancing the work of administrators in supervisory institutions – expanding the capacity and authority of the Insolvency Administration in performance of supervisory functions and raising qualifications of employed administrators, as reported by Justice Ministry.

Demand for Barbie considerably down in Europe and North America

The overall sales of Barbie dolls have fallen 13%, world's largest toy company, American manufacturer Mattel has stated.

Weather in Latvia to be windy and rainy for the next couple of days

The end of this week and beginning of the next will be windy and rainy in Latvia, as reported by the State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Lithuanian MPs deal with smut resolvedly, but is it sign of parliamentarian transparency?

If the Lithuanian lawmakers’ adhering to law and ethics was to be judged by the events from the last couple of weeks, one could conjure up an impression that the Lithuanian legislature is one of the most transparent around – and a whole lot such than the previous parliamentary term.

Riga International Airport will have a new air traffic control tower

Latvijas Gaisa Satiksme promises that Riga International Airport will have a new, modern air traffic control tower in 2013.

Lembergs will fight for his «warm seat» in the mayor’s office

Aivars Lembergs intends to participate in upcoming municipal elections in Ventspils as a mayoral candidate from his party – For Latvia and Ventspils.

Latvia’s financed loan volume increased by 72 million euros in Q1

In Q1 2017, loans worth more than EUR 94 million were issued through Latvian loan platforms, according to data compiled by Latvian Association of Alternative Financial Services.

Number of passengers carried by airBaltic grows 12%

Latvian national airBaltic airline carried 224,921 passengers to destinations in Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, CIS and the Middle East in March. This means a 12% increase in comparison with last year, BNN was told by the airline.

Birth rates in Latvia 6.9% behind previous year

Compared to the same period one year ago, 365 children fewer were born in Latvia in Q1 2017, which means a drop of 6.9 %.

Study: Latvia has become one of the centres for Russian organized crime

Russian organized crime groups, which often have ties to Kremlin, have varied their activities in Europe, including Latvia. This is why European institutions should consider them more of a security, not crime problem, as concluded in a study by British researcher Mark Galeotti* published by European Council on Foreign Relations.

Estonian state securities’ fund increases profits to 1.2 million euros

The gross revenue of the Estonian state securities and business support fund Kredex grew 16% reaching 7.1 million euros last year, while profits rose to 1.2 million euros, which is a 20% increase.

New CEO of Riga Freeport to have a major wage increase

Riga Freeport authority plans to announce a personnel selection process to find a new CEO for the Freeport, said Mareks Gailitis, advisor to chairman of the board of Riga Freeport Andris Ameriks.

20 asylum seekers resettled from Greece to Latvia

As part of the European Union’s resettlement programme, twenty people were relocated from Greece to Latvia on Wednesday, 19 April. Ten of those people are children, as reported by Office for Citizenship and Migration Affairs.

Estonia to impose banks with 14% advance income tax

Amending the Estonian income tax system, the country’s government has decided to push for a 14-percent advance income tax on banking institutions’ profits.

Newest comments