Riigikogu debates money laundering

Jaanus Karilaid (Centre) speaking at the Riigikogu on Wednesday.
Jaanus Karilaid (Centre) speaking at the Riigikogu on Wednesday. Source: Foto: Erik Peinar / Riigikogu Kantselei

Money laundering dominated Wednesday's session of the Riigikogu, with several relevant figures speaking on the topic including Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee Jaanus Karilaid (Centre) together with outside speakers such as Kristi Raik, Director of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute at the International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS) and Chairman of the Management Board of the Financial Supervision Authority (FSA) Kilvar Kessler.

The discussion follows the Danske Bank case which saw over €200 billion in illicit funds passing through the Tallinn branch of the Danish-owned bank over several years, and was prompted by the Riigikogu's Legal Affairs Committee. It pushed back the scheduled first reading of three bills to Thursday.

Jaanus Karilaid warned of serious flaws in public administration functioning.

"It is the task of the Riigikogu to correct such flaws and to make the state function better," Mr Karilaid said.

Open and honest discussion needed

"We want an honest and open discussion that would help us become stronger and function more efficiently and honestly as a state in the future," he added, identifying financial, legal and political aspects of the problem.

Kristi Raik said "money laundering undermines the credibility of our economic system and the rule of law both in the eyes of our citizens and in the eyes of foreign observers. 'Dirty money' involves a risk of corruption and the possibility of using the money as a means of political pressure''.

She highlighted the fissure separating money laundering and similar crimes, which are trans-national in nature, and the national aspect anti-money-laundering bodies.

"In order to fight cross-border problems and crime, including money laundering, cross-border cooperation is of course needed," she said, emphasising the role of the EU.

Current law not clear...

Kilvar Kessler said current Estonian law on misdemeanours and misdemeanour procedures doesn't sit well with the financial sector, since law's limitation period is short and procedures are very complicated or expensive, as well as punitive measures being light.

He added establishing a centre for strategic analysis of money laundering in Estonia might help, as well as prevention at an EU level.

"This might enable better organisation of cross-border exchange of information, and this would enable better measurement of the quality of the activities of different parties," he said.

...or is it?

Sworn advocate Maria Mägi-Rohtmets said that the Danske Bank case was deplorable, but on the bright side it had made politicians, society, bank employees and FSA personnel more aware of the importance of the credibility and transparency of financial markets.

In terms of ensuring correct and fair supervision in the financial market, current law was mostly sufficient, she said, contrasting with Mr Kessler's views, but that the law was not clear to all persons concerned.

"I very much wish that the wording was better in the interests of legal clarity," she went on, noting the damage done to the credibility and reputation of the country in the wake of the case.

Other business

Other MPs speaking on the money laundering issue included Oudekki Loone (Centre), Raivo Aeg (Pro Patria), Jürgen Ligi, Valdo Randpere and Arto Aas (Reform), Martin Helme and Peeter Ernits (EKRE), Külliki Kübarsepp and Jüri Adams (Free) and Artur Talvik (independent).

The Act on Amendments to the Health Services Organisation Act and the Medicinal Products Act, which facilitates sharing digital prescriptions and medical histories with other European countries and initiated by the Social Affairs Committee, also passed the Riigikogu on Wednesday.

Parliament also approved a resolution: "Amendment of the Resolution of the Riigikogu 'Formation of the Riigikogu Study Committee to Solve the Demographic Crisis'" submitted by Pro Patria with 54 in favour, one against and seven abstentions.

The resolution sees Pro Patria leader Helir-Valdor Seeder replacing fellow party member Maire Aunaste on the select committee, chaired by Siret Kotka-Repinski (Centre).

There are currently six select committees and 11 standing committees made up of Riigikogu members.

The current (XIIIth) Riigikogu sits until the March 2019 general election.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Riigikogu Kantselei

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