February 13, 2019 / 5:21 PM / 6 months ago

Estonia drops anti-money laundering legislation before election

TALLINN (Reuters) - Estonia’s parliament has dropped a proposed law that would have toughen rules on money-laundering, a parliamentary spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

Lawmakers told Reuters they expect the proposal, drafted after a scandal involving Denmark’s Danske Bank, to be revived later this year following a March 3 general election.

“The current parliament will not discuss this topic further,” the spokeswoman said.

Anti-money-laundering laws have been under scrutiny since Danske Bank said last year that 200 billion euros ($226 billion) of payments, many of which it described as “suspicious”, had been moved through its Estonian branch between 2007 and 2015.

The proposed new law included provisions such as increasing the maximum penalties applicable to financial institutions and giving more powers to the Financial Intelligence Unit.

The government had also been trying to include a clause that would have forced people suspected of benefiting from suspicious financial transactions to prove their wealth came from legitimate sources.

That provision was rejected by a parliamentary committee, however, and has been strongly criticised by the Chancellor of Justice, Estonia’s legal ombudsman, as contravening the basic legal principle of innocent until proven guilty.

Under current law, prosecutors must show that a suspect’s wealth was illegally obtained.

Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Catherine Evans

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