In Paris, a Latvian bank, Rietumu Banka, was fined 80 million euros ($91 million USD) for participating in a money laundering scheme involving at least 200 million euros and has also been barred from operating in France for five years.
The court convicted Rietumu Banka for “facilitating a scam to democratize tax evasion” through offshore companies located in tax havens with regular taxpayers and small businesses in France.
According to the presiding judge, the proven total amount of money laundered was $232 million, however, the suspected amount is much higher. Investigators have reason to believe that $964 million was laundered through Rietumu between 2008 and 2012 involving Nadav Bensoussan, a French financier, and his company, France Offshore. Bensoussan was sentenced to two years in prison and fined $3.4 million for helping to organize the tax evasion scheme.
A senior officer at Rietumu, Alexandre Pankov, received a four year suspended prison sentence and the bank’s representative in France, Sergejs Scuka, was sentenced to a one year suspended term. Other defendants involved also received suspended prison sentences.
Patrick Klugman, Rietumu’s lawyer, believes the ruling is “baseless and incomprehensible”.
Although Klugman claims Rietumu has been compliant, French investigators noted a lack of cooperation during the five year investigation, specifically when identification of French customers and their accounts was needed.
The bank also argued that it was compliant with Latvia’s anti-money laundering (AML) regulations, but prosecutor Ulrika Delaunay-Weiss says that Rietumu took advantage of flaws in the European legislation because it was overseen by Latvian authorities and therefore out of reach of French regulators.
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