RIGA - Latvia was officially added to the United States' list of countries of primary concern in regards to money laundering, the U.S. Embassy in Riga reported March 1.
The annual report - the International Narcotics Control Strategy - highlighted concern not only with money connected to the drug trade but specifically with the large amount of money deposited in Latvian banks by foreign depositors. The report pointed to organized crime networks at work in Latvia and cases involving Latvia under investigation by the FBI.
The report also cited the inconsistent utilization of effective practices against money laundering by Latvian banks and the woeful record of prosecutions and convictions of money launders in Latvia.
U.S. Ambassador to Latvia Brian Carlson, while listing the problems associated with money laundering in the Baltic state, also stressed some of the positive steps the country has made in combating the flow of illegal money.
"Our FBI has an excellent working relationship with Latvian authorities responsible for investigating these crimes," the news agency LETA reported Carlson as saying.
The U.S. Embassy stressed that inclusion in the money-laundering list should not necessarily be taken as a sign of dissatisfaction with Latvia but as a description of the situation.
Carlson also added that the Latvian Finance and Capital Market Commission "takes its responsibilities against money laundering very seriously."
Latvia was not alone on the list of countries of primary concern. A number of West European countries, in addition to the U.S.A. itself, are also on the list.
The designation carries no sanctions.
The embassy stated that it would continue to work closely with Latvian institutions that promote the prevention of money laundering, drawing attention to cross-border money declaration control, adopting tougher regulations and reporting on suspicious transactions, as well as improving legislation, BNS reported.
"Information of money laundering is not being used enough - or even requested enough," the prosecutor general's spokesperson Dzintra Subrovska was quoted as saying.