The anti-money laundering seminar discussed solutions for how banks operate

The seminar on Tuesday led by Eesti Pank discussed how to fight more effectively against money laundering while keeping banking services accessible for businesses.

The first part of the seminar focused on how money laundering may impact security, economic policy and financial supervision in Estonia.

Head of the Institute of Internal Security of the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences Erkki Koort said that dirty money that has been washed through Estonia could be used to attack the interests of the country. “Should we knowingly finance troll farms in St Petersburg or activities that could ultimately end in terrorist attacks in Mali or a rocket attack by Iran against the base where our soldiers are in Iraq?” he asked. He also pointed out that as an e-state Estonia should focus its attention on crypto-currencies, as it is very possible for money laundering to be used in an attack against the state as an element in a hybrid attack.

Secretary General of the Ministry of Finance Veiko Tali said that the state is allocating money and human resources to advance the work of the Financial Intelligence Unit to a new level. He said the aim is for the public and private sectors to work together to create a smarter and more efficient system for combating money laundering that could set an example for other countries. He added that Estonia has to take very seriously the preparations for the assessment by Moneyval next year, saying: “This is an international assessment of the operation of our financial system, and its impact will resonate for a long time”.

Chair of the Management Board of Finantsinspektsioon Kilvar Kessler said that more needs to be invested to make the fight against money laundering more effective. “We at Finantsinspektsioon have focused very closely on stopping money laundering by developing our people and our processes, and we have already introduced new solutions to handle this. We have done this so that we can carry out our legal duties well, and we expect similar approach from the banks”.

The second half of the seminar focused on how banking services can be maintained at a satisfactory level for businesses under stricter rules, and what the different links in the anti-money laundering chain could do to achieve this.

Maivi Ots, managing partner at Eversheds-Sutherland, said that businesses in Estonia have had problems with unexpected requests about actual beneficial owners from banks that have been long-term partners, that in extreme cases have ended up closing accounts. She noted that the state has recently allowed more flexibility in identifying beneficial owners, but that applying this successfully requires dialogue to be continued between the banks, their clients and the Financial Supervision Authority,.

Peeter Raudsepp, chair of the board of Enterprise Estonia, said that businesses want certainty. “If you ask businesses what is important, they will reply certainty. Our companies value a stable business environment, especially at present when there is general uncertainty in the economic environment. Any overreaction makes business activities extremely complicated and more expensive, and businesses certainly do not want that. The methods and regulations that are applied to combat money laundering should have an understandable basis and should be foreseeable”, he said.

Chair of the board of the Estonian Banking Association Erki Kilu pointed out that a good international reputation is very important in banking, so that the banking services that clients need for their business activities like international payments, card payments, investment services and financial services can be reliably provided. “The banks are working very hard to achieve this, but they must adapt to changing challenges and work together more”, he said.

Veronika Mets, Programme Manager at Moneyval, the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism of the Council of Europe, said that a positive assessment by Moneyval could help increase trust in the financial environment, but an unfavourable assessment could affect the reputation of the country and the international cooperation of both the public and private sectors.

“Brushing risks aside is easy, there is no great art to it. The art is in managing the risks. Just brushing them aside means generates incompetence in risk management organisation. The money laundering world is thirsting for new skills”, said Andre Nõmm, a member of the Finantsinspektsioon management board.

Photos from the seminar can be found on the Eesti Pank Flickr page: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmQLTsgK

Seminar rahapesu tõkestamise ja pangateenuste kättesaadavuse teemadel

The seminar on money-laundering, the fight against it and banking services was held in Eesti Pank on Tuesday 15 September from 9.30-13.00. The seminar was intended primarily for political decision makers, journalists, bankers, businesses, and officials dealing with the fight against money laundering, but the seminar was also broadcast publicly for all those who are interested.

It has been a goal of Eesti Pank since 2019 to organise seminars and discussions for policymakers and experts on topics where the central bank is not the most knowledgeable expert and that are not directly in the area of responsibility of the central bank.

For further information:
Viljar Rääsk
Head of Communications
Eesti Pank
6680 745, 5275 055
Email: viljar.raask [at] eestipank.ee
Press enquiries: press [at] eestipank.ee