Latvian MP says banks are presuming potential clients guilty after watchdog reform

In Latvia, every citizen and permanent resident has to have the right to open a bank account, otherwise one of a person’s democratic freedoms is not respected, says Saeima opposition legislator Jānis Urbanovičs.
According to him, since the Latvian financial sector control institutions and procedures have experienced a far-reaching reform to phase out money laundering through Latvian lenders, the banks have become excessively cautious.
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«Since the repair works in the sector, there operates a general and total presumption of guilt,» noted Urbanovičs, a veteran Saeima MP and one of the leaders of the Harmony party. «Every person opening the doors of a bank is automatically considered guilty – perceived to be a money launderer, an illegal lobbyist, even a potential sponsor of terrorism,» Urbanovičs told.
According to the legislator, every foreign citizen, every private individual or legal entity seeking to open a bank account can be presumed guilty and the bank can reject the application even without giving an explanation.
Urbanovičs also pointed to perceived lack of solidarity of banks in their services with people and businesses fleeing the regime of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus.
The opposition legislator is not the only one drawing attention to the accessibility of banking services in Latvia.
Mārtiņš Kazāks, the governor of the Bank of Latvia, said: «Banks and control institutions in their fight against «dirty» money have overdone their job, and right now, instead of catching crooks they make life harder to honest entrepreneurs and that is not permissible.»