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Monday 17.12.2018 | Name days: Teiksma, Hilda
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BNN summary of the week: Latvia’s problem with old politicians and FinCEN goals

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUBNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Change; Growth; Business; Justice; Opinion; Fight; Future.

CHANGE: Latvian Saeima establishes ban for banks to service shell companies

Banks registered in Latvia will no longer be allowed to work with shell companies and service their accounts. This is provided by amendments to the Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing approved by the Saeima on Thursday, 26 April, as confirmed by the parliament’s press-service.

«Amendments were proposed to prevent the possibility of Latvia’s financial system being used to launder illegally acquired funds. The ban will apply to credit institutions because turnover of shell companies forms a considerable portion of banks’ serviced accounts,» as noted by Finance Ministry.

The ban will also apply to payment processing institutions, electronic money institutions, deposit broker associations and private deposit portfolio management companies.

In accordance with the law, shell companies are ones that cannot prove their economic activities and are registered in countries that do not require submission of financial accounts. Shell companies have one other characteristic – they do not have an actual location where they are supposed to perform their business activities, the Saeima reports.

Full article here

GROWTH: Supreme Court of Justice views Kristovskis’ claim against Ventspils City Council

On 25 April, the Administrative Cases Department of the Supreme Court of Justice will be viewing two claims submitted by Ventspils City Council deputy Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis against the city council. «The fact that the case will be viewed verbally and that the defendants include Ventspils City Council, EPRDM and Association of Local Governments is considered unique and unprecedented in Latvia’s court practice,» says Kristovskis.

As it is known, Kristovskis has turned with a claim to court because he believes the management of Ventspils municipality refused to provide him with requested documents that govern the city council’s work in spite of multiple repeated requests. The city council’s management also refused to publish this information on the official ventspils.lv portal. Because the Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry refused to evaluate Ventspils City Council’s illegal activities and put an end, this matter has been delegated to the court.

«By accepting the claim and added evidence, the Supreme Court confirmed that it admits there is a lack of an effective rights-protection mechanism for situation when the rights and duties of minority deputies are limited by the majority deputies and management of municipal administrations, as it happens in Ventspils City Council’s case,» says Kristovskis.

Full article here

BUSINESS: Danske Bank to gradually cease servicing Baltic clients

In Baltic States, Danske Bank plans to focus solely on providing support to subsidiaries of Nordic clients, as well as global corporations with a considerable business portion in Nordic countries. Leaving private persons and local businesses servicing sector will be performed in a gradual manner, as reported by acting manager of Danske Bank’s Communication Office in Latvia Zane Strade.

She notes: «This means Danske Bank will cease opening accounts for new local clients. Existing clients will continue receiving services in accordance with signed contracts. All existing loan and deposit contracts will remain in force. Everyday services will continue being provided until further notice.»

At the same time, she adds that the bank will not expand cooperation with those clients. New loans will not be provided and no new service contracts will be provided to them.

Full article here

JUSTICE: FCMC chief says ABLV Bank’s closure was not the goal of FinCEN report

The report published in February by US Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network about ABLV Bank was not prepared with the goal in mind to close the bank, said chief of Latvia’s Finance and Capital Market Commission Pēters Putniņš at a public hearing organized by European Parliament’s TAX3 committee in Brussels.

«We do not know why the US government decided to unveil another report […], but it was not compiled with ABLV Bank’s closure in mind. […] FinCEN had assessed relevant risks for the bank’s survival outside the US dollar zone. There was no intention to kill off this bank with any documents – it was the market’s reaction that did it,» said Putniņš, adding that when the report was being released ABLV Bank was working on preventing different uncovered problems.

Full article here

OPINION: Ex-minister says Latvia’s biggest problem is the older generation of politicians

Older generation of politicians is Latvia’s largest problem. Some of those people are due for retirement. This is why the main objective for ‘Kustība Par!’ is involving a new generation of young and perspective politicians, says the party’s leader Daniels Pavļuts.

This year’s Saeima elections, according to him, will not have the usual choice between the left and the right or between conservatives or liberals. He says the «choice will be for a better tomorrow made yesterday».

«We are a modern, young and well-educated people that think about the future. Many of us have children and we think about their and Latvia’s future. People do not think in two or four-year election cycles. We look towards the far future,» Pavļuts says.

According to him, there isn’t a single truly right-wing party in Latvia. «Latvia has had more of an unclear centrist policy over the years. Unity has a very unclear place in the political spectrum. Lately Unity has been experiencing internal stress associated with a desire to attract nationally-thinking voters. This is why the party has performed leans towards national conservatism. I no longer see anything right-wing or centrist left in this party.»

Full article here

FIGHT: «Oligarch talks» publication law put on hold; will fabricated «risks» impact UGF?

On Tuesday, 25 April, Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee decided against putting up for a vote the legislative draft for the digitization and publication of the declassified portion of materials from the so-called oligarch talks criminal case.

At the same time, the committee decided to ask Justice Ministry’s work group to evaluate and offer solutions that would permit society, including mass media representatives to access materials from the criminal case.

With that, the majority of members of the Legal Affairs Committee decided not to vote on the legislative draft that would have allowed journalists to access materials of the scandalous criminal case and publish them for all to read. The legislative draft was submitted for discussion in the parliament was submitted by Unity’s Saeima faction and Latvian Association of Regions.

Unity faction deputy Andrejs Judins proposed voting on the legislative draft today. The majority of members of the committee, however, did not support his proposal.

Judins wrote on his Twitter account: «The real goal is not ‘slowing it’ – the goal is preventing amendments from being adopted».

He added: «[Gundars] Daudze was visibly nervous during the meeting. He was worried publication of oligarch talks could affect the election process. He is well aware that if truth comes to light, UGF’s image would suffer.»

Full article here

FUTURE: Norway interested in developing cooperation with Latvia in tourism industry

«Latvia welcomes successful regional and economic cooperation with Norway. Our countries have common values and goals – developing Baltic and Nordic countries as a wealthy and secure European region,» said Latvia’s Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens during his meeting with Norwegian State Secretary for Trade, Industry and Fisheries Roy Angelvik.

During this meeting, Latvia’s minister and his Norwegian colleague discussed mutual economic cooperation matters, as well as opportunities for expanded cooperation, as BNN was informed by Economy Ministry.

Angelvik and Ašeradens both said that their countries find it important to develop cooperation in start-up and innovations industry. At the same time, the two sides mentioned they are interested in developing cooperation in education by creating study programmes and student exchange events.

Ašeradens also said he is satisfied with the level of cooperation between Latvia and Norway on a regional level, adding that it is necessary to aim towards tighter regional integration of Baltic and Nordic States, especially in the field of energy, innovation, construction and green technologies. At the same time, the minister voiced satisfaction for Norway’s contribution to increasing security in the Baltic Region, the ministry notes.

Full article here


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Week in Lithuania. Prosecutors mull probe into Russia sanction violations

Lithuanian prosecutors announced this week they were mulling launching a pre-trial investigation in to the purchase by around ten companies of fertilizers from Russia's Minudobreniya, which allegedly violates the EU's sanctions against Russia.

BNN summary of the week: scheme bubble of Rīgas satiksme; Estonia raises wages; government formation in Latvia

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Scandal; Plans; Growth; Protests; Amendments; Fight; Opinion.

Experts: fiscal consolidation is unavoidable next year

The new government will have to perform fiscal consolidation when compiling the state budget for 2019. This opinion was sent to the Saeima and Cabinet of Ministers by the Fiscal Discipline Council in relation to the 13th Saeima’s approval of amendments for the Healthcare Law that provide for a 20% wage increase for doctors starting next.

Ventspils opposition: the Constitution stands above municipality’s opinions on city governance

«For us to work to our full capacity, we require information and stay in the loop. If the work of the city council was organized during meetings of the city council and committees, we would have this opportunity. But because the work of the city council is put under other institutions – committees, in this case – and we [majority of opposition deputies] are not allowed to participate in those meetings and receive documents, this means our rights as deputies and voters are being limited. This, we believe, is the most important aspect to be breached,» said Ventspils City Council opposition deputy Aivis Landmanis said during a hearing of the Administrative Court in Liepaja in regards to Ventspils City Council’s refusal to adopt proportionality principles in committees and other structures.

EU offers Britons clarification, but no renegotiation of Brexit deal

European Union member state leaders and the blocs top officials have stated at a summit with British Prime Minister Theresa May, that the Brexit withdrawal agreement that lacks clear support in UK parliament was not open for renegotiation.

Estonia raises minimum wage

The minimum monthly wage in Estonia has been approved at the level of 540 euros, which is an increase from 500 euros.

This year e-signature was used to sign more than 5.7 million documents in Latvia

This year, e-signature was used more than half a million times a month in Latvia. A total of 5.7 million documents have been signed using this function in Latvia so far. More than 25,000 now use e-signature function on their smart-phones.

Trump distances himself from crimes committed by his lawyer

Reacting to the conviction of American lawyer Michael Cohen over campaign funding violations, U.S. President Donald Trump has distanced himself from the lawyer and accused him of attempts to embarrass Trump.

New Unity starts consultations with parties on forming government with Kariņš in charge

New Unity will insist on getting Finance Ministry in the new government, because it is only logical to have this ministry managed by the prime minister’s party, says NU representative and Saeima deputy Ojārs Ēriks Kalniņš.

Strasbourg terrorist «neutralised» after opening fire on police

The attacker suspected of killing two people and injuring 12 more people at a Strasbourg Christmas market has been shot dead by French police.

Next week in Latvia to start off with snowfall

The end of the week is not expected to have any major weather changes in Latvia, whereas next week will start off with snowfall and gradual decline of air temperature, promises Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Court arrests Harmony sponsor and Honour to Serve Riga party member

Riga City Vidzeme District Court issued an arrest to businessman Aleksandrs Krjačeks on Thurday, 13 December. He was previously detained by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau in the criminal case regarding procurements organized by SIA Rīgas satiksme, as confirmed by the man’s lawyer Valdis Ulmanis.

Saeima: increase of doctors’ wages should be a government priority

When preparing the budget plan for the next three years, the government should allocate money for the 20% increase of doctors’ wages. This is provided by changes to Healthcare Financing Law, approved by the Saeima in two readings on Thursday, 13 December.

airBaltic to perform more flights between Riga and Liepaja

During a visit today in Liepaja CEO of Latvian airline airBaltic Martin Gauss announced that airBaltic will increase the number of domestic flights between Riga and Liepaja from three to five weekly as of summer season 2019.

Court arrests Škoda commercial director; CPCB request arrests for two more people

Latvian court has arrested Škoda commercial director Vladislav Kozak following a request from Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau in relation to the criminal case regarding procurements performed by Rīgas satiksme.

EY: investments in crypto currency offers have largely failed

86% of 141 initial crypto currency offers presented last year have lost value over the course of the first eight months of this year. Additionally 30% of them have lost nearly all of their value, according to Initial Coin Offerings study by EY.

Estonian criminal figure convicted in Ireland

A court in Ireland has convicted Estonian criminal figure Imre Arakas, finding him guilting of conspiracy to murder.

As income increase, housing becomes more accessible in all Baltic capitals

Housing Accessibility Index improved in all Baltic capitals in Q3 2018. The main factor for this was the growth of average net salaries. Additionally, beneficial economic development also improved households’ interest for housing acquisition, which was reflected both in increased activity on the apartment market and household loan portfolio growth.

Lithuanian PM suspects Kremlin-backed opposition behind teacher attacks

The nearer municipal council, presidential and EP elections, the more sparkles Lithuania’s political leadership spews out. With the linguistic weaponry exhausted in the Seimas, the party leaders seek help from intelligence services.

EP proposes stricter monitoring of militants returning to Europe to combat terrorism better

The European Parliament has presented proposals for better measures against radicalization, better data exchange and support of victims of terrorism, as well as several other proposals for European Union’s strategy for terrorism prevention.

Latvian media organizations found Media Ethics Council

On Wednesday, 12 December, Latvian Media Ethics Council was founded. It is a public organization meant to unite media organizations and legal persons associated with the media sector and supervise compliance with the council’s statutes and code of ethics, the council explains.

U.S. President's former lawyer sentenced to prison

The former personal attorney of U.S. President Donald Trump has been handed a prison sentence for violations of the rules of election campaign. A New York court has sentenced Michael Cohen to three years in federal prison.

Latvian parties hear New Unity leader’s offer; opinions on coalition still differ

Political parties in Latvia are prepared to listen to New Unity and its prime minister candidate Krišjāņis Kariņš’s initiative in the government formation process.

British PM stays after no-confidence vote, attends EU summit

British Prime Minister Theresa May has survived a no-confidence vote in her ruling Conservative Party and on Thursday attends a summit of the European Union.

European Parliament ratifies EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement

On Wednesday, 12 December, gave green light for EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, which is EU’s all-time largest mutual trade agreement.

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