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Latvian bank faces US sanctions for dealing with NK

Feb. 14, 2018 - 16:26 By Kim So-hyun
The US Treasury Department proposed sanctions against a Latvian bank, saying it helped process illicit transactions for entities including those with ties to North Korea’s ballistic missiles program.

The US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) designated Latvia’s ABLV Bank as a primary money laundering concern, and proposed to ban it from the US financial system.

China’s Bank of Dandong, which was blacklisted by the US in June last year for laundering money for North Korea. (Yonhap)

The US took same measures against Macau-based Banco Delta Asia in 2005 and the Bank of Dandong in June last year.

“Illicit financial activity at the bank includes transactions for parties connected to UN-designated entities, some of which are involved in North Korea’s procurement or export of ballistic missiles,” FinCEN said in a statement Tuesday.

FinCEN issued the finding and notice of proposed rule-making, pursuant to Section 311 of the USA Patriot Act, seeking to ban the Latvian bank from opening or maintaining a correspondent bank account in the US.

According to FinCEN, ABLV’s management permitted the bank’s employees to solicit high-risk shell company activity that enables the bank and its customers to launder funds, and obstructed enforcement of Latvian rules on anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism.

Last year, an investigation by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Treasury found that five other Latvian banks, which mainly serve nonresident clients, violated the United Nations Security Council’s sanctions against North Korea and rules on anti-money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Latvia’s Financial and Capital Market Commission confirmed the banks’ illicit activity and assigned it financial penalties totaling 3.5 million euros ($4.3 million).

It is the third time the US government has imposed sanctions against a foreign bank for dealing with North Korea.

In 2005, Macau-based Banco Delta Asia had some $25 million in North Korean funds frozen under US sanctions, as 24 companies including Chinese banks stopped dealing with the North, putting Pyongyang under severe financial strain. The US also blacklisted China’s Bank of Dandong in June last year for laundering money for North Korea.

“We have made clear to countries and companies around the world that they can choose to trade with North Korea or the United States, but not both,” the US Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker said in an anti-money laundering and financial crimes conference in New York on Tuesday.

“We will target not only companies that actually know they are being exploited, but also those that should know. We are resolved that anyone who knowingly aids North Korea faces being cut off from the US financial system.”

By Kim So-hyun (