Lithuania steps up anti-money-laundering effort after Baltic scandals

FILE PHOTO: Lithuania's central bank governor Vitas Vasiliauskas speaks during the Euro Conference in Vilnius September 25, 2014. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

VILNIUS (Reuters) - Lithuania has taken extra measures to prevent money-laundering after bank scandals in Latvia and Estonia which have harmed its reputation, its central bank Governor Vitas Vasiliauskas said.

The euro-zone member has so far avoided any major financial scandals of its own but felt it needed to improve its safeguards, Vasiliauskas, who is also a European Central Bank (ECB) Governing Council member, said.

“Foreigners tend to see the three Baltic states as a single market,” he added.

The central bank, which is trying to attract financial technology companies, issued several dozen electronic money licences last year to startups including Google’s payment arm and Revolut, a British digital-only bank.

“We see what happened there (in Latvia and Estonia), and we see the inflows of new players in the financial market. So of course we must react,” Vasiliauskas told reporters.

The central bank has established new departments for money-laundering prevention and for electronic money supervision at the start of January, and invested in technical measures to identify money-laundering risks, Vasiliauskas said.

“We believe that, with the new measures in place, our capabilities at a totally new level,” he added.

Estonia was rocked by allegations of money laundering last year and authorities arrested 10 former employees of the local branch of Danske Bank in December as part of an international investigation. Latvian lender ABLV Bank was wound up following allegations by U.S. authorities of large-scale money laundering and facilitating a breach of sanctions on North Korea. Latvia’s central bank governor Ilmars Rimsevics was also charged with corruption, allegations he denies.

Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Alexander Smith