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Banking

Lithuania aims for excellence in AML

A new anti-money laundering centre housed in the Baltic state’s central bank is growing and hiring fast. It aims to turn Lithuania into an AML hub – and to address and reverse the region’s questionable reputation.

For Lithuania, the journey from laggard to leader in anti-money laundering (AML) began in July 2019. At the time, a toxic pall lay over the Baltic banking sector. That banks in Latvia and Estonia were conduits for dirty money had been an open secret for decades.

A few months earlier, Thomas Borgen, chief executive of Danske Bank, quit in the wake of a €200 billion money laundering scandal linked to the Danish lender’s Estonian operations. And in 2018, Latvia’s ABLV Bank closed after being accused of laundering money for corrupt clients in Russia and Ukraine.

In the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, the reaction was one of exasperation. “As a small country, it was a pity,” says Jekaterina Govina, head of the Bank of Lithuania’s Financial Market Supervision Service. “We are all in the same basket of Baltic countries and few think about the region in terms of separate countries.”

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