Latvia fines BlueOrange Bank over anti-money laundering violations

RIGA, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Latvia’s banking watchdog has fined BlueOrange Bank 1.2 million euros for violating anti-money laundering and terrorism financing rules, it said on Friday.

The regulator said the rule breaches related to the bank’s operations in 2016 and 2017 when BlueOrange, which previously operated as Baltikums Bank, largely served non-resident clients mainly from former Soviet Union countries.

The watchdog also said the bank did not pay sufficient attention to customer transactions and that it had failed to ensure that suspicious transactions were identified and reported to the Financial Intelligence Unit of Latvia, a monitoring body.

“We will ... ensure that the country’s overall risk levels are reduced in this area,” Latvian banking watchdog Peters Putnins said in an emailed statement.

BlueOrange Bank, the country’s eighth largest bank by assets, will pay the fine but said it did have sufficient documentation on customers’ transactions.

“Since 2017, we have improved our internal control systems ... We have significantly improved all these deficiencies,” Dmitrijs Latisevs, CEO of BlueOrange Bank, told Reuters by telephone.

Latvia has been criticised by the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering committee for failing to tackle financial crimes.

ABLV Bank, Latvia’s third largest bank, was wound up earlier this year following allegations by U.S. authorities of large-scale money laundering and facilitating the breach of sanctions against North Korea.

Reporting by Gederts Gelzis, Editing by Esha Vaish and Jane Merriman