French court reduces fine of Rietumu Banka for alleged engagement in money laundering

  • 2021-04-06
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - The French court on Tuesday reduced the fine imposed on Latvia's Rietumu Banka by almost 75 percent - from EUR 80 million to EUR 20 million - for alleged engagement in money laundering, Bloomberg news agency reported.

Judges at the Paris court of appeals did not detail on Tuesday their reasoning for cutting the fine, just said the written ruling will be sent to the parties later.

LETA learned from the court that the prosecution required EUR 60 million fine for Rietumu Banka, and two-year suspended jail term and a EUR 50,000 fine for former bank's president Aleksandrs Pankovs.

The court reduced te suspended hail term from four years to two years and imposed a EUR 150,000 fine.

The court also confirmed that Rietumu Banka has been banned from operations in France for five years.

Rietumu Banka spokeswoman Eleonora Gailisa told LETA that the court has taken the bank's arguments into consideration and has revised the first instance court decision in favor of the bank.

"At the same time, we are ready to continue defending our position, using the EU court system," said Gailisa.

As reported, a Paris court in July 6, 2017, fined Rietumu Banka EUR 80 million for facilitating a scam to "democratize" tax evasion among ordinary taxpayers and small businesses in France. The bank’s president Aleksandrs Pankovs and Sergejs Scuks, the head of the Rietumu Banka representation in France, received suspended sentences, and Rietumu Banka was banned from doing business in France for five years.

Rietumu Banka had put aside provisions worth EUR 20 million after it was hit with a heavy fine over a money-laundering scheme in France.

Gailisa underscored that the bank does not admit guilt in the crime. "The bank is fully convinced of its innocence. Our position has been explained in the appeal," she said.

At the end of 2020, Rietumu Banka was the fifth largest bank in Latvia by assets. The bank's main shareholders are Esterkin Family Investments (33.12 percent), Maltese company Boswell (International) Consulting Limited (33.11 percent), and Suharenko Family Investments (17.34 percent).