On 1 January, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of Estonia started functioning as an independent institution under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance.
Effective prevention of money laundering is very important for the Estonian government and the given field requires greater attention and ambition than currently granted. The shifting of the Financial Intelligence Unit into an independent body, within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance, allows for increasing the required focus and the inclusion of additional resources.
“The budget of the Financial Intelligence Unit for 2021, without IT expenses, is 3.1 million euros. The budget of the institution thus saw a more than twofold increase over last year. The unit currently has 32 job positions, which will increase to 47 this year. So the number of employees in the institution will increase nearly by half," Mr Märten Ross, Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Finance for Financial Policy and External Relations, commented on the rapid development of the Financial Intelligence Unit.
The broader aim of the activities of the Financial Intelligence Unit is to participate in the protection of the reliability of the financial system and the economy in general. This area of policy falls in the main under the purview of the Ministry of Finance and an intensified cooperation of FIU with other financial regulators will advance the aim. "It is important to look into the future and seek new solutions in preventing money laundering. One of the main focuses of the Financial Intelligence Unit is developing the strategic data and risk analysis function. This is highly important when facing future challenges”, Mr Märten Ross added.
The Director of the National Criminal Police, Mr Aivar Alavere, considers it very important to maintain the fruitful cooperation between the FIU and the police.
"Countering money laundering can be effective only if there is tight cooperation between the institutions and they strive to achieve joint aims. The Financial Intelligence Unit has a very important role to play in this. The procedural units receive information from the Financial Intelligence Unit on suspicious transactions and people, which is the base material for investigators for initiating criminal proceedings as well as for gathering evidence. The flow of information in the opposite direction is of equal importance. Information collected by law enforcement authorities is of great assistance to the Financial Intelligence Unit in its analysis as well as monitoring activities. Within the National Criminal Police, we will create two new positions specialised in the prevention of money laundering. Their objective is to possess a good overview of what is going on in field, as well as serving as a bridge between the Police and Border Guard Board and the Financial Intelligence Unit", Mr Aivar Alavere said.
The Manager of the Content Services Department of the Information Technology and Development Centre of the Ministry of the Interior (SMIT), Mr Väino Kiuru said that initially despite that the unit has shifted into the jurisdiction of another ministry, the SMIT will continue to provide IT services to the Financial Intelligence Unit as previously. “SMIT will ensure IT services in a way that supports the fulfilment of the tasks of the Financial Intelligence Unit. We will also continue cooperation on developing IT systems, where a partner is included in development on a daily basis", Mr Väino Kiuru added.
The duties of the Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit will be fulfilled by the Manager of the Analysis Department, Ms Marget Lundava from the beginning of the year until the appointment of a new director. The new location of the Financial Intelligence Unit will be Pronksi 12 in Tallinn. Relocation is expected in the summer of this year, the exact time mainly depending on the development and accreditation of IT systems.