Sant accuses Brussels of disproportionate treatment over money laundering

Labour MEP accuses European Commission of being stricter with Malta than with Latvia over ABLV bank’s billions in transactions

European Commissioner Vera Jourova
European Commissioner Vera Jourova

Maltese MEP Alfred Sant has criticised the European Commission over what he claims is “disproportionate treatment” to Malta on the enforcement of anti-money laundering rules when compared to the much more serious case of Latvia and ABLV Bank.

Sant was reacting in a supplementary question to a reply by EC Commissioner Vera Jourova to the Maltese MEP’s parliamentary question on actions taken by the EC on money-laundering accusations levelled at ABLV Bank in Latvia. 

In her reply, Jourova said the Commission, being aware of the events and eventual liquidation of the ABLV Bank in Latvia, was monitoring the situation after it opened an infringement procedure for non-communication of transposition measures of the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive against Latvia in July 2017.

In his supplementary question, Sant pressed Jourova to explain why and how her treatment of Malta had been disproportionate to how she had handled the Latvian scandal.

“In the case of Latvia, the European Commission is carrying monitoring activities and several letters have been sent to the anti-money laundering authorities. It has also requested a breach of Union law investigation from the EBA. Latvian ABLV had around $4.6  billion in assets, handled transactions valued at tens of billions of dollars in offshore jurisdictions,” Sant said.

“In the case of Malta, argued the Maltese MEP, the European Commission had requested preliminary enquiries that lasted two years as well as on-site investigations. It further requested the FIAU to meet and to provide with additional information. It also asked the Maltese authorities to take a number of measures, questioning its methodology, strategy, ability to react as well as its processes for inspections.”

The Maltese MEP noted that in official press releases, Jourova had referred to the fight against money laundering in the context of “Malta and other countries” and repeatedly referred to Malta’s systematic weaknesses when referring to the case of Pilatus Bank, whose chairman and ownber Ali Sadr Hasheminehad was accused of funnelling $115 million through US banks to Iranian beneficiaries, in breach of American sanctions.

Latvian Bank ABLV 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 accused ABLV of making money laundering a pillar of the bank’s business practices for a number of years and that the Latvian bank was involved in the theft of 1 billion US$ in assets from fraudulent Moldovan banks. Representing the third largest bank in Latvia, it was recently liquidated following assertions of institutionalised money laundering.

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