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Lithuania unveils strict new KYC rules

| By Aaron Noy
Lithuania’s authorities have published a series of strict new know-your-customer guidelines for gaming operators following accusations that the sector is an easy target for money laundering activities.

The Gambling Supervision Service, which works under Lithuania’s Ministry of Finance, said the guidelines outline which factors should be taken into account by gambling and lottery companies when assessing business relationships, monetary transactions and transactions related to the risk of money laundering and terrorist financing.

The guidelines were published to make the gambling sector compliant with the country’s Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing. Last year a National Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment accused the Gambling Supervisory Authority of being ill-equipped to deal with the threat of money laundering in casinos, and identified the remote gambling sector as a high risk of such practices.

The new guidelines put particular emphasis on the steps that operators must take if their client is considered a politically vulnerable person or a high-risk person resident in a third country. Enhanced customer identification is required for any such person, and the operator must check all registrations to confirm whether a client fits into that category.

With anyone deemed to require enhanced customer identification, it is now mandatory that operators verify the source of assets and funds on the basis of reliable independent data, documents or information, such as public data registers.

Companies must apply enhanced customer identification when transactions or business relationships are carried out with natural persons residing in high-risk third countries identified by the European Commission.

The guidelines also state that all customers must be divided into risk groups (categories) according to various criteria, such as the size, nature, extent of the monetary transactions performed, the services purchased, past suspicious transactions, attempts to present a non-identity document, and actions to avoid registration or identification of monetary transactions.

“The company should try to get as much information as possible from the client. However, such information should be collected prudently and efforts should be made to verify the information provided by the client,” according to the guidelines.

“All information provided by the client must be confidential and carefully protected in accordance with the law and the company’s procedures.”

Earlier this year, leading government bodies in Lithuania signed a new cooperation agreement to help fight match-fixing and move towards ratification of the Macolin Convention.

Lithuanian gambling revenue in the first half of 2020 fell by 15.9% to €43.8m (£4.0m/$5.2m) as the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic led to online revenue overtaking that of the land-based sector.

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