MEPs from the Financial Crimes, Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance Committee (TAX3) have just concluded a visit to Riga.
Over two days, the 10-strong delegation met with political counterparts and experts primarily to discuss the circumstances of the voluntary liquidation of ABLV Bank, which was the third largest bank of Latvia.
The delegation also visited the premises of the Freeport of Riga, and met with civil society stakeholders to gain a better understanding of Latvian financial and customs policies.
The delegation also met with counterparts from the responsible committees of the Latvian Parliament; the Minister of Finances; Anti Money Laundering authorities, and the association of Latvian Commercial Banks.
Reacting at the end of the visit, committee chair Petr Ježek (ALDE, CZ) said: "Our visit to Riga has allowed us to gather that the Latvian authorities have clearly realised that the situation which the country’s banking sector was in was not sustainable. We were also pleased to note that efforts are being carried out to redress the situation and these are already bearing fruit, such as the reduction of non-resident deposits and of shell companies, and the increase in criminal proceedings against entities involved in money laundering.
It seems clear to us that smaller countries are disproportionately affected by money laundering activities. The situation which existed in Latvia is again proof of this. The objective for my committee will be to evaluate what changes at EU level can help member states tackle money laundering more effectively.”
Co-rapporteur, Jeppe Kofod (S&D, DK) said: "As in numerous other countries, the enforcement of money laundering rules has been weak in Latvia. The priority here must be to strengthen law enforcement. Our visit has allowed us to witness efforts which go in the right direction but it is equally true that serious challenges need to be overcome before Latvia can be considered to be in a situation to be seriously fighting money laundering. At the same time it is important not to make the mistake of looking at deficiencies in combatting money laundering on a country by country basis only - money laundering is a systemic phenomenon that needs to be tackled across the EU as a matter of priority."
At the end of the visit, the MEPs leading the delegation held a press conference which can be watched again here.
A report of the findings of the delegation will be compiled and published in the near future. It will be presented in the committee, and the main conclusions of the report will be included in the final report at the end of the TAX3 committee's mandate.
The delegation was composed of:
Petr JEZEK, Chair (ALDE, CZ)
Ana GOMES (S&D, PT)
Jeppe KOFOD, co-rapporteur (S&D, DK)
Dariusz ROSATI (EPP, PL)
Monica MACOVEI (ECR, RO)
Emil RADEV (EPP, BG)
Wolf KLINZ (ALDE, DE)
Molly SCOTT CATO (Greens, UK)
Paloma LOPEZ BERMEJO (GUE, ES)
Mario BORGHEZIO (ENF, IT)
Following continued revelations over the last five years (Luxleaks, the Panama Papers, Football leaks and the Paradise papers), the European Parliament decided to establish a Special Committee on Financial Crimes, Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance (TAX3), on 1 March 2018. During its twelve-month mandate, the committee will examine and assess whether further progress has been made in combatting financial crimes, tax evasion and tax avoidance. To do this, numerous hearings with experts and fact-finding missions are being organised regularly. The committee will conclude its work with a report containing its findings and recommendations.