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Latvia to reduce local banks' transactions with shell companies after US warning

The Latvian government is planning to cut its banks' links with shell companies, as part of cleanup measures following a warning from the U.S. that it needs to have better controls given its status as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Bloomberg News reported.

Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis told local television that dealings with shell companies "will be reduced to the level of 5%." The country has been under pressure to clean up its financial industry after the closure of ABLV Bank AS following U.S. allegations that it enabled money laundering and violations of sanctions on North Korea.

Kucinskis noted that the reforms, which will be considered in the week of March 19, will be calibrated to ensure that they do not lead to "radical closing" of the Baltic country's banks.

Kucinskis, who told Reuters earlier in March that Latvia intends to introduce tighter bank controls, added that a more than 30% fall in nonresident deposits between 2015 and 2017 has been at a pace that is "too slow."