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Owner of Latvian bank accused of murder conspiracy of lawyer who reported AML issues to authorities

A Latvian bank's owner is being tried for plotting the murder of a defense attorney who had charged the lender with money laundering.

Owner of Latvian bank accused of  murder conspiracy of lawyer who reported AML issues to authorities

Insolvency lawyer Mrti Bunkus was assassinated in broad daylight, according to allegations made against Mihails Ulmans, a beneficial owner of LPB bank, after he reported AML suspicions about the institution to the police.

As he was winding up another business, Bunkus allegedly discovered evidence that led him to believe LPB and Mego, a retailer that is now beneficially owned by Babenko and was previously controlled by Ulmans, were involved in money laundering.

In March 2016, he brought up these issues with the Latvian financial crime agencies.

In rush-hour traffic on May 30, 2018, Bunkus was shot many times with an AK47 assault rifle, which led to his death.

In May 2022, Ulmans and co-defendant Aleksandrs Babenko, one of his business partners, were taken into custody on suspicion of inciting Bunkus's murder. Since being arrested, the two have maintained their innocence. A Russian citizen is one of the other suspects charged with the shooting.

The two men were allegedly accused of promising €100,000 to the person who organized the murder and €200,000 to the killer, according to police papers reviewed by the Financial Times and published by Ulmans' legal team as part of a legal case in the US.

In September 2016, a gunman on a motorcycle tried to shoot Bunkus, but the gun jammed. This was another attempt on his life.

LPB was assessed a €2.2 million fine by authorities in 2018 after it was discovered that the lender had failed to address regulatory issues found by inspectors in 2016.

The LPB bank denied any involvement in money laundering and stated that the Financial and Capital Market Commission "has not identified a single money laundering case" in spite of "numerous inspections and penalties."

Ulmans "does not hold any position within our bank and therefore, he does not have any kind of influence on our day-to-day operations," the bank continued.

Meanwhile, the trial is expected to bring back into spotlight Latvia's banks, which at one point threatened to receive a "grey listing" from FATF due to a lack of AML standards.

In order to prevent its banks from serving as a point of entry for Russian dirty money into the EU, the nation later implemented extensive reforms and made its FIU one of the strongest in the EU.



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