A Latvian bank with links to 17 Black has been raided in one of the country’s most extensive investigations into money laundering yet.
ABLV Bank, which is believed to have been used by Azeri national Rufut Baratzada to send payments to Yorgen Fenech’s 17 Black account at Noor Bank in Dubai via a correspondent’s bank in the USA, was raided by 300 police officers yesterday.
“The raid could be about the laundering of several hundred million euros,” said the head of the Economic Police Fighting Economic Crime Board in Latvia Pēteris Bauska. “Investigations are still being carried out and will be carried out.”
Computers and documents were seized as up to 50 investigations related to the bank are underway.
The raid on ABLV is the second one this year and comes following the bank’s announced planned liquidation of €2.3 billion in assets back in 2018 amid money laundering allegations. It is one of the largest banks in Latvia and within the Baltic States region, with its assets regularly placing ABLV among the most profitable banks in the country.
Breaking news from Latvia: One of the most extensive searches in the country’s history is currently being carried out at ABLV Bank. 300 police officers, 46 addresses linked to ABLV Bank. Several persons detained. (currently only in Latvian) https://t.co/O13MmClPIu
— Matthew Caruana Galizia (@mcaruanagalizia) June 13, 2020
Reuters Correspondent Stephen Grey posted that a Latvian source said the ABLV raid was “connected” to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Reminder: ABLV sent cash to 17 Black, who we revealed was owned by Yorgen Fenech, now charged with (and denies) Daphne murder. I just asked Latvia source if today’s raids connected to the case? “It is all connected”. https://t.co/peVIjysitg https://t.co/r1bLalOLj4
— Stephen Grey (@StephenGrey) June 13, 2020
ABLV was used to transfer €1.1 million to 17 Black in 2015, with Malta’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit finding that two payments had come from a company called Mayor Trans based in the Seychelles.
Mayor Trans is owned by the aforementioned Baratzada, a security guard who works in Baku and lives in a one-storey house. When Reuters contacted him to ask if he owned the company caught in the middle of this financial web, he simple said “if it’s me, it’s me” and cut off.
Fenech is currently under investigation for his involvement in the assassination plot to murder Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
His company, 17 Black, was named as the “target client” for the Panama companies belonging to former Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi and former chief of staff Keith Schembri.
A report by the FIAU found that 17 Black had received at least three payments – one of €161,000 from Maltese local agent for the tanker supplying gas to the LNG power station and two separate payments amounting to €1.1 million from Baratzada.
And the ABLV case involves potentially more than just money laundering.
Martins Bunkus, a Latvian lawyer working on ABLV’s asset liquidation, was murdered last year in a killing believed to be related to the bank’s shady dealings.
“We now know, as a result of the Daphne Project’s investigations, that Latvia’s ABLV Bank, like Pilatus Bank in Malta, was a service provider to a money-laundering network implicating Politically Exposed Persons in Malta and in Azerbaijan,” the Caruana Galizias said last year.
“Martins Bunkus, a Latvian lawyer who fought for ABLV Bank to be liquidated involuntarily, was also murdered in a well-planned attack, just seven months later. His murder, like Daphne Caruana Galizia’s, remains unsolved,” they continued.
Investigations into ABLV continue following yesterday’s raid.