Report: US sanctioning Russians sparks exodus of cash from Latvia
MOSCOW, Apr 23 (PRIME) -- U.S. sanctions against Russian billionaires have sparked a further exodus of cash from Latvia, a Baltic nation whose banking system has already been shaken by a string of money-laundering scandals, Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing Peters Putnins, director of the Financial and Capital Market Commission.
The measures against businessmen, companies and senior officials were taken days after President Donald Trump expelled 60 Russian diplomats for the nerve-agent attack on a former Russian spy in the U.K. The penalties prompted lenders in Latvia to end relationships with the sanctioned people and entities, according to the head of the local regulator.
УThere were a number of subjects from those mentioned on the list,Ф Putnins said. He declined to provide names.
The U.S. sanctions have pounded the business interests of billionaires including aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, whose RUSAL has lost about 60% of its value since the announcement. Foreign money was already fleeing Latvia after the countryТs top-3 lender was closed amid U.S. accusations it routinely handled illicit cash. Compounding matters, the central bank is battling bribery allegations that saw him briefly detained.
Latvia, an E.U. and euro zone member, has traditionally served as a payments center for clients from the former Soviet Union. In a bid to shake off claims it holds wealth of questionable origin, the government is tightening oversight of the financial system. Deposits have plunged by about 2.5 billion euros since mid-February.
Parliament may adopt measures this month banning shell companies from Latvian banks, accelerating the fall in foreign deposits. Regulators started tightening oversight as long ago as 2016, raising capital standards and forcing lenders to undergo audits of anti-money laundering systems at their own expense.
The changing backdrop is forcing lenders with foreign clients to examine new business lines and models. Some may decide to relocate from Latvia, according to Putnins. They may choose Уemigrate away,Ф he said, without naming specific banks.