For a country of fewer than 2 million people, Latvia boasts an unusually large banking sector divided into two large sub-sectors. One segment is dominated by Scandinavian banks which service the locals. Another segment works with non-residents, mostly from ex-USSR states. For many years Latvia has been a financial bridge between the East and the West — or Switzerland that is closer, cheaper, and speaks Russian*. Latvia’s authorities long insisted that most of the ex-Soviet money was legitimate.
Few recent scandals have hurt the reputation of a country that has worked hard to embed itself in Nato, the EU and the eurozone since regaining its independence. Latvian banks were accused of handling some of the $1 billion stolen in 2015 from Moldova’s financial system, helping shift as much as $20 billion in illicit cash from Russia between 2010 and 2014. In 2016 Trasta komercbanka was shut down after being implicated in money-laundering violations. In 2017 five Latvian banks agreed to fines for failing to gather sufficient information on transactions and beneficiaries in deals linked to North Korea. In 2018 Latvia’s third-largest lender ABLV was left facing rapidly mounting problems, after the U.S. Treasury accused it of money laundering and defying Western sanctions. In addition, the head of the country’s central bank was held in custody, accused of soliciting a bribe by Riga’s anti-corruption agency. Latvia’s largest remaining non-resident bank, Rietumu banka closed over 4,000 accounts of which two thirds were of non-Latvian origin that has leaded to the biggest reduction as deposits at this bank fell by 54.5%. The use of shell companies has been widespread in Latvia, with the country’s financial watchdog putting their number at over 26,000.
Latvia’s Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis did not mince words in the spring of 2018. “As a border state, NATO member state, and with our geopolitical situation, we can’t allow this volume of risky money. Non-resident deposits will be reduced to the level of 5% (from 32.5%) within two or three months... Latvia will put forward legislation to ban shell companies”. By the March of 2019 the share of non-resident deposits downed to 19%. But this wasn’t the ending.
The Danske Bank (the largest bank in Denmark) money laundering scandal arose in 2017-2018 around €200 billion of suspicious transactions that flowed from Russian and Azerbaijani sources through the Estonia-based bank branch of Danske from 2007 to 2015. It has been described as possibly the largest money laundering scandal ever in Europe, and as possibly the largest in world history. In February, 2019 regulator in Estonia have ordered Danske Bank to leave the country, in return the bank answered that it would close down its business in the Baltic states and Russia. Same month Swedish television reported it had uncovered documents linking Swedbank to a money laundering scandal involving Danske and at least $4.3 billion had been transferred between accounts at Swedbank and Danske in the Baltics between 2007 and 2015. CEO of both banks were fired. Regulators in Estonia and Latvia have expressed their concerns that Swedbank and SEB — the two remaining Nordic banks present in the region in a big way — could be forced to withdraw from their countries due to the fallout. In May, 2019 Sweden’s biggest lender, Svenska Handelsbanken AB, is pulling out of the Baltic region arguing that the cost of staying is simply too big.

*In the early 1990s, the first latvian private bank Parex advertised its services with the slogan "We're closer than Switzerland".

The project was created at ISSP Riga Residence, Riga, Latvia, June, 2019

Bank! Bank! city bike tour, 2019. Documenting of perfomance. Perfomance happened on 15 June, 2019. Participants: Agnese Murniece, Katrina Kepule, Megumi Ohguri, Dāvids Groza, Ruta Beināre, TeodezijaBaltikums Bank (founded in 2001) started using BlueOrange as its new brand in January 2017, offering innovative service (for example, opening of a bank account at home). Nevertheless, this first provider of contactless cards and ATMs in its home country Latvia was fined €1.2 million in December 2018 after it agreed to settle with the Financial and Capital Market Commission (FKTK) for alleged violations of the Law on Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing.
Bank! Bank! city bike tour, 2019. Documenting of perfomance. Perfomance happened on 15 June, 2019. Participants: Agnese Murniece, Katrina Kepule, Megumi Ohguri, Dāvids Groza, Ruta Beināre, Teodezija
Baltikums Bank (founded in 2001) started using BlueOrange as its new brand in January 2017, offering innovative service (for example, opening of a bank account at home). Nevertheless, this first provider of contactless cards and ATMs in its home country Latvia was fined €1.2 million in December 2018 after it agreed to settle with the Financial and Capital Market Commission (FKTK) for alleged violations of the Law on Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing.
Night screening, 2019. Documenting of intervention in public space. 21 June, 2019Still from one of the Latvian banks advertorial video, shown for 5 minutes before open-air movie screening in Riga.
Night screening, 2019. Documenting of intervention in public space. 21 June, 2019
Still from one of the Latvian banks advertorial video, shown for 5 minutes before open-air movie screening in Riga.
Shell company, 2019
Shell company, 2019
Local Banks ATM, 2019
Local Banks ATM, 2019
Ranking, 2019
Ranking, 2019
Top, 2019
Top, 2019
Watchdog, 2019
Watchdog, 2019
Wreckage, 2019. Intervention in public space
Wreckage, 2019. Intervention in public space
Percent, 2019. Documenting of artist
Percent, 2019. Documenting of artist's perfomance. Photographer: Eva Saukane
Decked out in a copy of DNB bank mascot costume, artist roamed along Riga's Krāsotāju street. Original costume had been produced once for bank’s promotional activities at the times when DNB offered 1% loan rate for it's Latvian clients. In 2017 the largest Norwegian bank DNB and Nordea, the biggest bank in the Nordic region, had unified operations under new brand Luminor, to become the third largest financial service provider in the Baltics, with a deposits market share of 16% and loans market share of 23%.
Flea market, 2019. Documenting of perfomance. 8 June, 2019. Performer: Laima GraždanovičaMemorabilia of the closed and troubled Baltic banks had been exhibited and offered for sale during Riga
Flea market, 2019. Documenting of perfomance. 8 June, 2019. Performer: Laima Graždanoviča
Memorabilia of the closed and troubled Baltic banks had been exhibited and offered for sale during Riga's open-air flea market at the Spīķeri Quarter.
Tag, 2019
Tag, 2019
Weather vane, 2019This weather vane with materialised logo of Parex bank (crown made with coins) had been installed at the cupola of the historical banking building on Smilšu street, 3 at Riga
Weather vane, 2019
This weather vane with materialised logo of Parex bank (crown made with coins) had been installed at the cupola of the historical banking building on Smilšu street, 3 at Riga's Old Town. Parex had survived Latvia’s banking crises of 1993, 1995 and 1998 to become the country’s biggest deposit bank, but has been taken over by the Latvian government to prevent a financial crisis that could have wrecked the fragile Baltic economies in 2008.
Eye drops, 2019
Eye drops, 2019
Impotence, 2019Trasta Komercbanka is one of the oldest private banks in Latvia, it was founded under the name Riga Bank in 1989. In 2016, following a request of the FCМС, the European Central Bank has revoked the licence of Trasta komercbanka. FCMC has concluded that the bank has no critically important functions and its exclusion from the market will not impact the stability of Latvia’s financial sector all that much. According to the FCMC, Trasta Komercbanka has been operating with losses for a long period and has no viable business model or development strategy adequate to the situation. In addition, serious and sustained breaches of the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regulations were identified in the bank
Impotence, 2019
Trasta Komercbanka is one of the oldest private banks in Latvia, it was founded under the name Riga Bank in 1989. In 2016, following a request of the FCМС, the European Central Bank has revoked the licence of Trasta komercbanka. FCMC has concluded that the bank has no critically important functions and its exclusion from the market will not impact the stability of Latvia’s financial sector all that much. According to the FCMC, Trasta Komercbanka has been operating with losses for a long period and has no viable business model or development strategy adequate to the situation. In addition, serious and sustained breaches of the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regulations were identified in the bank's activities. In 2019, in connection with the so-called ''Russian laundromat'' case in Germany, €1 million has been arrested from Trasta Komercbanka, which is in the liquidation process at the moment.
Opening, 2019Troubles faced by ABLV Bank have put question marks about the future of the Latvia’s long-awaited Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum is a public/private initiative with significant investment from ABLV bank, as well of the Boris and Inara Teterev Fund and the Culture Ministry. With designs of London-based architecture firm Adjaye Associates and Latvian studio AB3D already approved, it is to be built by November 18, 2021. Despite the implosion of ABLV Bank - which spelled a funding freeze in the foundation that would have paid for the construction €30 million - patrons will provide additional funding of more than €1 million to the €3,5 million already invested in the project to finish the design up to the construction phase. Some are also concerned about what will happen to the two hundred modern artworks owned by ABLV Bank that are bound for the new museum’s collection.
Opening, 2019
Troubles faced by ABLV Bank have put question marks about the future of the Latvia’s long-awaited Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum is a public/private initiative with significant investment from ABLV bank, as well of the Boris and Inara Teterev Fund and the Culture Ministry. With designs of London-based architecture firm Adjaye Associates and Latvian studio AB3D already approved, it is to be built by November 18, 2021. Despite the implosion of ABLV Bank - which spelled a funding freeze in the foundation that would have paid for the construction €30 million - patrons will provide additional funding of more than €1 million to the €3,5 million already invested in the project to finish the design up to the construction phase. Some are also concerned about what will happen to the two hundred modern artworks owned by ABLV Bank that are bound for the new museum’s collection.
Infographics, 2019
Infographics, 2019
Private banking, 2019
Private banking, 2019
Casino, 2019
Casino, 2019
BeWhite!, 2019. Screen from the bank
BeWhite!, 2019. Screen from the bank's official video
Baltic International Bank is a family-owned bank – a 99.9% stake is held by the Belokon family. Supervisory Board members include former CIA and State Department counter-terrorism expert Joseph Cofer Black and German diplomat Hans Friedrich von Ploetz. In 2012 the bank invited Donald Trump Jr. to the conference, dedicated to generational wealth and family businesses. In 2016 FKTK fined the bank €1.1 million for "repeated violations" of money laundering rules and "engaging in a series of transactions that subjected the bank to a significant money laundering and reputational risk".
Event, 2019
Event, 2019
Murder, 2019A corporate lawyer Martins Bunkus who worked on managing the winding-down of insolvent companies was shot dead near the Riga Brethern Cemetery on May, 30, 2018. A police official said it looked to be “a carefully planned murder” that was “connected with the victim’s professional work,” though police haven’t linked his death with any specific client he worked with. A year on the case remains unsolved.
Murder, 2019
A corporate lawyer Martins Bunkus who worked on managing the winding-down of insolvent companies was shot dead near the Riga Brethern Cemetery on May, 30, 2018. A police official said it looked to be “a carefully planned murder” that was “connected with the victim’s professional work,” though police haven’t linked his death with any specific client he worked with. A year on the case remains unsolved.
Crossing, 2019Following the demise of rival ABLV, Rietumu has become the largest remaining bank servicing the non-resident banking sector. In March 2018 the bank decided to reclassify more than 4,000 of its corporate customers from “High Risk” category to “Prohibited Risk” category to terminate its relationship with these customers.
Crossing, 2019
Following the demise of rival ABLV, Rietumu has become the largest remaining bank servicing the non-resident banking sector. In March 2018 the bank decided to reclassify more than 4,000 of its corporate customers from “High Risk” category to “Prohibited Risk” category to terminate its relationship with these customers.
Ligo, 2019
Ligo, 2019
Signs, 2019
Signs, 2019
Eiro Cafe, 2019. Documenting of reenactmentIn the autumn of 2013 Swedish SEB bank in cooperation with Daily Cafe opened SEB Eiro Cafe in Riga
Eiro Cafe, 2019. Documenting of reenactment
In the autumn of 2013 Swedish SEB bank in cooperation with Daily Cafe opened SEB Eiro Cafe in Riga's Old Town, where each guest could get acquainted with the information related to Latvia's adoption of euro, that had happened in 2014.
Bort, 2019104 companies have registered at the apartment on Leona Paegles street, 19a in Cesis, Latvia. Their names mostly begin with "Bort", continuing with random number.
Bort, 2019
104 companies have registered at the apartment on Leona Paegles street, 19a in Cesis, Latvia. Their names mostly begin with "Bort", continuing with random number.
Bridge to nowhere, 2019
Bridge to nowhere, 2019
Carpet, 2019
Carpet, 2019
Lunch, 2019
Lunch, 2019