EU focusing on Malta, ignoring more serious money-laundering elsewhere - Sant

Labour MEP Alfred Sant asked EU Commissioner Vera Jourova what the European Commission was doing regarding money laundering in Estonia, the Netherlands and Latvia

PL MEP Alfred Sant challenged Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova to supply information on what action the EU was taking on money-laundering in other EU countries
PL MEP Alfred Sant challenged Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova to supply information on what action the EU was taking on money-laundering in other EU countries

Alfred Sant has challenged European Commissioner Vera Jourova to supply information on what the European Union is doing about money laundering activities in a number of member states.

The Labour Party MEP accused Jourova of being willing to take Malta - the smallest EU country - to task on relatively less important matters, while ignoring more serious illegalities in other countries.

He asked the Justice Commissioner whether the European Commission was investigating or taking any action when it came to money laundering in Estonia, the Netherlands and Latvia.

These three countries, Sant said, had revealed that substantial illegal activity had been going on within them, and asked Jourova to specify whether their national financial authorities, which are involved in money laundering, are presenting general and systematic shortcomings in the enforcement of anti-money laundering rules.

Sant’s questions come after Jourova, during a visit to Malta in June, had expressed her concerns that there were gaps in Malta’s anti-money laundering laws.

In the case of Danske Bank in Estonia, Sant told Jourova that nearly €178 billion were laundered through the bank between 2007 and 2015.

This money mostly stemmed from the United Kingdom, the British Virgin Islands and Russia. An independent investigation team found that more than half of Danske’s 15,000 Estonian accounts were considered suspicious.

These accounts notably featured doubtful non-residential transactions, operated by individuals not based in Estonia, but using the bank's facilities in the country.

Sant also noted that on 4 September, Dutch Bank ING admitted that criminals had being using its accounts to launder money for years.

The bank agreed to pay €775 million in a settlement, including €675 million for the fine and €100 million as the return of illicit gains.

Financial prosecutors found that ING had violated, for years, laws to prevent money laundering by failing to properly vet account owners and by overlooking unusual transactions.

When it came to Latvian Bank ABLV, Sant told Jourova that it has been implicated in money laundering, bribing officials and facilitating breaking of sanctions against North Korea.

The United States Treasury's Financial Crimes Unit has notably accused ABLV of making money laundering a pillar of the bank’s business practices for a number of years.

Representing the third largest bank in Latvia, it was recently liquidated following assertions of institutionalised money laundering.

Commission focusing only on Malta

Sant said he was asking the questions after it had been revealed that Malta is the only country which the Commission is ordering to strengthen its anti-money laundering rules and to improve the functions of its financial intelligence unit.

He said this was a clear case where a Commissioner was taking to task the smallest EU member state on a relatively less important instance, to show that she was somehow acting against money-laundering activities.

“Commissioner Jourova felt she should take action against Malta, whilst ignoring more serious money-laundering allegations in larger EU member states which had occurred before her very eyes,” Sant remarked.

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