RIGA, Feb. 16 (Xinhua) -- The Latvian banking regulator, the Financial and Capital Market Commission (FCMC), is launching an immediate inquiry to probe U.S. authorities' allegations that ABLV Bank, the Baltic country's third largest bank by assets, has been involved in money laundering schemes and bribery, FCMC head Peters Putnins said here on Friday.
The FCMC inquiry is expected to take a couple of weeks, Putnins said at a news conference, adding that the regulator has not imposed any restrictions on the bank for now.
"First, we need to clarify all the circumstances, because a large part of the cases mentioned in the U.S. authority's report have already been investigated in the past. We are still investigating some other cases, and decisions will be taken depending on the outcome of these investigations," Putnins told reporters.
He noted that the European Central Bank (ECB) has been monitoring ABLV Bank for compliance in all areas, except for money laundering, which is the national regulator's duty and prerogative.
Putnins said that FCMC was taking steps to stabilize the situation and protect depositors' interests so that the allegations against ABLV left as little impact on the Latvian banking sector as possible.
He also noted that there is no evidence to suggest that ABLV Bank's managers had ever tried to bribe FCMC employees.
Over the past couple of years, the regulator has done a lot to make ABLV Bank improve its compliance with money laundering rules, and most probably, the report by the U.S. Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is an "echo of events from a more distant past", Putnins said.
In a report released on Wednesday, FinCEN said that the ABLV management "used bribery to influence Latvian officials when challenging enforcement actions and perceived threats to their high-risk business".
FinCEN has proposed sanctioning ABLV for its money laundering schemes by banning the bank from opening or maintaining correspondent accounts in the U.S. or altogether blocking the bank from the U.S. financial system.
ABLV Bank's representatives have vehemently denied the accusations, however, in order to protect the reputation of the Latvian banking system as a whole, ABLV has temporary suspended membership in the Association of Latvian Commercial Banks.