The Baltics, and Latvia in particular, have been a haven for money laundering since the fall of the Soviet Union. Although the region has worked hard as of late to clean up its image as the finance center for Eastern European organized crime, the past remains front and center. The Neka Personiga (Nothing Personal) analytical news program of commercial TV3 television reported on one of these high-profile situations over the weekend.
After the global crisis in 2009, Kazakhstan’s largest bank, BTA Bank, was nationalized. During nationalization, it was discovered that USD 5-7 billion had disappeared from the bank, and some of the money had been transferred to offshore companies through Latvian banks, reported The Baltic Times.
According to documents from Kazakshtann, transfers of money to offshore companies were conducted through Baltikums bank and Trasta Komercbanka (TKB). Cooperation with both Latvian banks had been active since 2001. BTA Bank’s employees reported that TKB board chairman Viktors Ziemelis in 2005-2008 had frequent meetings with Mukhtar Ablyazov, owner of BTA Bank.
According to the documents from investigation conducted in Kazakhstan, in 2009 Ablyazov was already hiding in London, where he met with Ziemelis and TKB shareholder Igors Buimisters to discuss how to unfreeze USD 77 million from the bank. An agreement was reached that TKB will assist in helping to unfreeze the assets, while Ablyazov will buy TKB bonds for EUR 3 million. Reportedly the transaction was successful., but there is no information whether any of the financial watchdog representatives were bribed in the process.
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