Speaker Smiltēns, Director Straume, Executive Director Tauriņa, Members of Saeima, Distinguished Guests:
I am honored to join you today in marking International Anti-Corruption Day. The U.S. Embassy is pleased to continue our partnership with Delna and its tireless efforts to fight corruption and strengthen the rule of law in Latvia. I am glad to see so many other people gathered today with a commitment to action, and welcome one of our experts from the United States, Sarah Chayes, who will speak to you later this afternoon.
Fighting corruption is a core U.S. national security priority. We focus on it domestically in the United States and we focus on it as part of our foreign policy. Corruption undermines democracy and respect for human rights, impedes investment, stifles economic growth, hampers government services, and allows criminality to flourish. Moreover, corruption often provides a foothold for our most dangerous adversaries, who exploit vulnerabilities in our systems and hurt our ability to deliver results for our citizens, thus destroying public trust.
Our efforts to combat corruption are particularly important in partnership with our Allies in NATO, our most important Alliance, whose resilience and strength is vital to the security of the people of the United States and Latvia.
That is why our shared fight against corruption has been a top priority for the United States during my time as Ambassador here.
On this day three years ago, shortly after I arrived as Ambassador, the United States sanctioned a prominent Latvian oligarch under the Global Magnitsky Act. Just 21 months before that, the U.S. Department of the Treasury named a Latvian bank as an institution of primary money laundering concern.
I know these actions—some of the most powerful tools we have to fight corruption and money laundering—can be controversial. But they work. They disrupt corrupt practices that are harmful to our shared national security interests.
Here in Latvia, the government and civil society deserve credit for addressing broader corruption and money laundering threats. For example:
- Latvia became the first member state under a review by MONEYVAL (Council of Europe Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism) to successfully implement all 40 FATF (Financial Action Task Force) recommendations.
- Latvia has made it mandatory for all joint-stock companies to register their shares and submit information on their shareholders to the Enterprise Register, thus increasing transparency. This was a commitment Latvia made a year ago at the Summit for Democracy.
- Latvia passed a lobbying law setting comprehensive rules of engagement for lobbyists and establishing a mandatory lobbyist register.,/li>
- Latvia formed an economic crimes court to adjudicate complex financial crimes. And since 2020 Latvian courts have convicted more than 90 defendants in money laundering cases, confiscating over 100 million Euro in money laundering proceeds. In the last quarter alone, Latvian courts convicted around 150 defendants on corruption and financial offenses.
The United States is honored to support Latvia in these efforts. At Latvia’s invitation, the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of the Treasury – largely through two recently created offices in the Embassy – provide training and technical assistance to prosecutors, investigators, law enforcement officers, and judges. The United States collaborates closely with Latvia’s Financial Intelligence Unit, regulatory authorities, and civil society to help Latvia prevent and combat money laundering and corruption, and prosecute financial, cyber, and organized crime.
Our partnership demonstrates that joint training programs develop the capabilities our countries need to bring corrupt actors to justice and to build public awareness to prevent corruption. Over the past 24 months our DOJ team has organized over 55 workshops for Latvian partners that have included about 190 prosecutors, 280 law enforcement officials, and 100 judges.
I commend our Latvian partners for their dedicated work on these issues, and for the increased political and civil society attention to the corruption threat.
Last year, President Levits participated in the Summit for Democracy hosted by President Biden, an ongoing high-level initiative that brings together representatives from government, civil society, and the private sector to address emerging challenges to democracy, including corruption.
I am also pleased to note that this week, representatives from Latvia’s Financial Intelligence Unit, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Corruption Prevention and Combatting Bureau, the newly formed Economic Crimes Court, and the Baltic Center for Investigative Journalism are joining over 10,000 people from 180 countries at the International Anti-Corruption Conference in Washington, D.C, to continue building momentum for landmark anti-corruption initiatives.
Thanks to these ongoing efforts, Latvia—and the NATO Alliance—are more resilient to corruption. However, we must remain vigilant. Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war in Ukraine is a warning call to all NATO countries about the dangerous adversaries we face. We must continue strengthening our institutions and our political will to defend our sovereignty and our freedoms. We stand ready to continue our partnership with Latvia on these efforts.