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Latvia fines banks for breaking North Korea sanctions
by Staff Writers
Riga (AFP) June 27, 2017

Latvia's financial regulator said Tuesday it was fining three of the country's banks a total of more than 600,000 euros for breaking EU and US sanctions against North Korea over its work on nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

The Financial and Capital Markets Commission (FKTK) sanctioned Baltikums Bank, now trading as BlueOrange, AS PrivatBank which is the Latvian subsidiary of Ukraine's troubled PrivatBank, and the Regional Investment Bank (RIB).

The first two banks were fined 35,000 euros ($39,000) each, with RIB paying a much larger penalty of 570,000 euros.

A joint investigation by the FKTK and the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) found all three banks guilty of "weaknesses in customer due diligence and transaction monitoring that led to the situation that banks had been used to circumvent international sanctions requirements imposed against North Korea."

FKTK chairman Peters Putnins told reporters Tuesday in Riga that the investigation into how the Latvian banks and shady offshore entities channelled money to the North Korean regime was ongoing.

Putnins did not rule out the possibility that other banks could have been involved.

"The investigation has not finished, neither in Latvia nor in America... if there is a basis for believing that other banks have been involved, we will take appropriate action," Putnins said.

The FKTK released information provided by the FBI indicating that between 2009 and 2016 "foreign nationals organised schemes of criminal transactions in order to circumvent the international sanctions regime concerning North Korea and its program of ballistic missiles and conventional weapons, including export of goods and equipment related to this program."

"Financial services of... Latvian commercial banks were used at several stages of these schemes, where a number of transactions through the current accounts of customers were performed in the interests of sanctioned North Korean entities."

The FKTK gave no precise details of the sums involved other than to say they exceeded 100,000 euros and involved transactions in various currencies.

It also refused to disclose the nationalities of individuals involved, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.

Eurozone member Latvia's thriving boutique banking sector, which is geared towards non-resident clients from the former Soviet Union, has been linked to various money-laundering scandals.

They include the Magnitsky case in Russia and the theft of more than a billion euros from Moldovan state coffers.

Last year the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development invited Latvia to join after meeting a request to crack down on graft in the banking sector.

Trump says N.Korea threat must be 'dealt with rapidly'
Washington (AFP) June 26, 2017
President Donald Trump called on Monday for the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear and ballistic programs to be "rapidly" tackled, as he thanked visiting Indian leader Narendra Modi for rallying behind sanctions on Pyongyang. "The North Korean regime is causing tremendous problems and is something that has to be dealt with, and probably dealt with rapidly," Trump told reporters in the Whi ... read more

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