Netanyahu Meets Latvia's FM Amid Reports Country Launders Funds for Sanctioned States

The prime minister's bureau statement said the two discussed 'Iranian aggression and recent developments in the region. Also, the two discussed strengthening the bilateral relations between the countries.'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs in Jerusalem, June 7, 2018
Kobi Gideon

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkvičs on Thursday night in his bureau in Jerusalem. The meeting took place upon Netanyahu's return from a diplomatic tour of Europe.

Latvia is considered a weak link in the European banking system, due to suspicions that Latvian banks assisted countries such as Russia and North Korea to bypass international economic sanctions. Since the U.S. withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran, Netanyahu has been pushing to reinstate harsh economic sanctions on Tehran. It is possible Netanyahu will soon embark on an official visit to Latvia.

In the prime minister's bureau statement said the two discussed "Iranian aggression and recent developments in the region. Also, the two discussed strengthening the bilateral relations between the countries."

A report published by the Associated Press last week said North Korea continued to fund its missile program under American sanctions through a back door supplied by Latvian banks. The U.S. blamed one of the largest banks in the Baltic state for transferring illegal funds from North Korea, Russia and Syria.

The report also mentioned corruption scandals in the Latvian banking system. Latvian Prime Minister Mris Kučinskis told AP his country will combat this issue, saying Latvia "cannot afford to have any uncontrolled money flows."

Latvia, along with Cyprus and Malta, is often dubbed a "money launderer" country for the EU, allowing foreigners to "buy" citizenship by investing 650,000 euros ($750,000). The issue with Latvia is considered more complex.

The Assosicated Press contributed to this report.