Estonia to establish anti-money laundering centre for strategic analysis

Minister of Finance Toomas Tõniste (Isamaa).
Minister of Finance Toomas Tõniste (Isamaa). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The Anti-Money Laundering Government Committee decided on Monday to establish a centre for strategic analysis that would operate under the Financial Intelligence Unit.

Minister of Finance Toomas Tõniste (Isamaa) said that the governmental committee discussed the proposals set forth by work groups on the basis of a report presented by the committee at the end of last year, spokespeople for the Ministry of Finance said. 

"One of the most important decisions was the one to establish a centre for strategic monitoring and analysis," Mr Tõniste said. "As past lessons have also shown, the capacity for analysis is a key issue in the successful prevention of money laundering, alongside international cooperation and rapid information exchanges. The centre will be granted access to the databases and registers of various institutions, and the developing of smart IT solutions in particular will be a very important component in this."

A second vital portion of proposals addressed the hedging of risks related to virtual currency service providers, in order to be able to cope with new international risks and avoid undermining Estonia's positive digital image internationally. In the issuance of activity permits, an increase in the size of the state fee, an annual license fee, a requirement for company headquarters and physical domicile in Estonia, evaluation of the background of the owners and introducing an informing obligation are all measures being weighed.

The minister added that the establishment of a common body for supervision over the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing on the EU level was also discussed.

"There was support for the establishment of such a cooperative institution on the condition that the institution will not be limited to the role of supervisor or supervisors, so to speak, but would also have the power to make decisions," he said.

Money laundering prevention measures

Late last year, the Anti-Money Laundering Government Committee presented an in-depth analysis and proposals for increasing the effectiveness of money laundering prevention. The proposals concerned both the institutional and the legislative framework.

The committee set up two expert work groups, one of which focussed on the institutional network, including the analysis and monitoring system, cooperation and resources, and the other of which addressed the legislative framework in connection with supervision and punishments. The committee can move forward right away with some of the proposals; others will require additional analysis, and work on these will continue.

Issues on which the committee will move forward include the concept of administrative fines, and the specification of the regulation of whistleblowers in the financial sector. Current sanctions for breaches represent a major bottleneck, as they are not proportional to the violations and need to be made harsher. Goals include harsher punishments, simpler proceedings and better protections for whistleblowers in the finance sector.

The amount of financing needed from the state budget will be presented once it has been specified. An additional €500,000 in additional resources will also be allocated to the Prosecutor's Office and the Financial Intelligence Unit as well.

Plans are also to move forward with legislative changes aimed at increasing the effectiveness of combating money laundering which have already been drafted by the governmental committee and approved by the government, but were dropped from the agenda of the outgoing Riigikogu due to procedural rules. The amendments will toughen the rules for the issuance of virtual currency permits, introduce the requirement of reverse burden of proof as well as toughen punishments in the finance sector.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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