European Interest

Latvia targets shell companies

Flickr/NATO/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
“We have agreed today about the prohibition of shell companies in Latvia,” Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis told reporters on March 21.

Legislation to ban shell companies will be tabled by Latvian lawmakers, according to Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis who is under pressure to fight money laundering.

“We have agreed today about the prohibition of shell companies in Latvia,” Kucinskis told reporters on March 21. If the legislation is passed in early April as the government plans, it could come into force in May, he said.

As reported by the Reuters news agency, Latvia is struggling to restore confidence in its financial institutions after US accusations that the euro zone state’s third biggest bank, ABLV, was serving as a conduit for illicit funds. The bank, whose former management denies wrongdoing, was shut down last month.

The use of shell companies has been widespread in Latvia, with the country’s financial watchdog putting their number at over 26,000.

They can be used to obscure the real owner of assets and make it difficult for authorities to ascertain the origin of funds.

Latvia’s Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola said banks would be given only “a very short time” after the legislation came into effect to wind up deposits with shell company clients. Kucinskis suggested the grace period could be six months.

According to data seen by Reuters, Latvia launched just 85 money-laundering investigations in 2017 even though its banks flagged 17,900 suspect transactions.

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