Exclusive Interview with Aivar Paul, the Newly Appointed Chief AML Officer & Board Member of Wallester AS

Aivar Paul joined Wallester team

Introduction

We're excited to share that Aivar Paul, a leading AML expert in Estonia, has recently joined our team! Aivar brings valuable experience to our efforts to combat money laundering and enhance our risk mitigation measures. With a proven track record of implementing effective measures against fraudulent activities and money laundering schemes, we're confident that Aivar will help us achieve our goals.

At Wallester, we are dedicated to safeguarding and protecting our customers. We constantly strive to improve our security measures to provide the best possible protection. The addition of Estonia's leading AML expert to our team reflects our commitment to maintaining high-quality safety measures and transparency.

We are pleased to introduce our new Chief AML Officer and Board Member, Aivar Paul, and share our interview with him.

Please tell us about your background and experience in the AML field.

My journey in the AML field began in 1995 when I started my career as an investigator at the Central Criminal Police. From 1995-1999, I investigated various criminal cases in Estonia. My specialisation eventually led me into the realm of economic crimes.

In 1999, I had the privilege of joining the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), established as part of the Police Border. I was personally invited to join the team by Arnold Tenusaar -- the person who launched FIU and the first head of FIU, and I enthusiastically accepted the opportunity. During this early phase, only two of us were responsible for setting up money laundering prevention in Estonia.

This period marked the beginning of my AML career, and it was a time of great intrigue and challenge. We embarked on the task of building an entirely new AML infrastructure in Estonia from the ground up. Our initial challenges included reaching out to financial institutions to educate them about the newly established laws to combat economic crimes. We needed their cooperation in reporting and implementing new measures to enhance Estonia's financial security, which took some time to achieve.

After a while, I received an offer to join Swedbank (formerly known as Hansapank), where I spent the next 12 years starting as the sole specialist on AML. During this period, it was customary for every financial institution to have at least one person dedicated to combating money laundering.

The importance of AML activities rose significantly, and the staff increased yearly. Eventually, I became head of the AML department. I left the bank and accepted the role of the head of the Estonian FIU. In this capacity, I had significant responsibility, including overseeing the Moneyval assessment of Estonia's AML efforts, a crucial international evaluation. The outcome of this assessment holds considerable weight for the country, potentially affecting its status on blacklists or graylists and the ease of doing business within the country and internationally.

During this time, I also witnessed the introduction of new regulations for virtual asset service providers, though they were initially more akin to registrations than formal licenses. The FIU also required updated software to efficiently manage the influx of reports.

In 2016, I transitioned to Head of Anti-Money Laundering at LHV - an Estonian banking and financial services company headquartered in Tallinn, where I remained until 2022. The same year, I founded my consulting company and worked as an independent consultant. In 2023, I received an offer to join the Wallester team, where I continue to apply my extensive AML expertise.

My career journey in the AML field has provided me with a unique perspective, from law enforcement and financial institutions to regulatory bodies and independent consulting. This diverse experience has equipped me with a deep understanding of AML challenges and strategies, making me well-prepared to contribute effectively to the field.

Based on your extensive experience, how would you describe the concept of Anti-Money Laundering (AML)?

The AML topic is fascinating because it used to be associated with fighting organised crime, explicitly involving drug money. In the past, individuals would use simple methods to launder their illicit gains, such as acquiring cash through open bank accounts and ATMs, and banks did not take measures since money laundering was not punishable. It changed with the beginning of AML. Since then, both money laundering methods and understanding of money laundering have developed significantly; it’s a continuous process.

Over time, the definition of money laundering has broadened. In Estonia, every crime could potentially be connected to money laundering and is monitored closely. Financial institutions are, for example, now required to monitor politically exposed individuals closely due to their increased risk of corruption and other illicit activities.

Until 2012, tax-related crimes were not considered part of money laundering activities under international AML standards. However, recent changes have expanded AML's responsibility to include tax-related crimes.

The AML system is comprised of two main principles: financial institutions must know their customers, and they are required to report suspicious activity to the FIU. The concept of AML requires that banks send information on suspicious activity to the state on their own initiative. If money laundering regulations were removed, the state would have limited ways to acquire such information. It would have to be a criminal investigation or tax proceedings, which are lengthy processes. However, the AML concept is an exception where nobody requests the information, but the private sector, primarily financial institutions, is obliged to report suspicious activities, including confidential customer information.

Aivar Paul joined Wallester team 2

As the head of AML at Wallester, what functions and values do you believe AML brings to the organisation?

To answer your question, I'd like to highlight two critical components of AML: compliance and ethics.

Compliance is essential to ensure that all necessary regulations are followed, promoting safety for both clients and businesses within the bounds of the law.

Having a solid ethical foundation involves comprehending and adhering to regulations that prevent us from conducting business with individuals involved in criminal activities. It is crucial to effectively identify such individuals before they harm others, as their actions can adversely affect the country's financial stability and inhabitants. It is essential to not only comply with these obligations but also understand and adhere to their underlying principles.

Regarding functions and values, taking preventive measures to combat money laundering and financial crimes is critical. This promotes transparency and integrity in the financial industry and, if everybody is committed - positively impacting the financial climate both domestically and globally.

What AML provides is help understanding these pillars and mitigating the risks and risk culture in general – how we approach the risks and what we do when something goes wrong.

Aivar Paul Joined Wallster Team 3

Why did you choose to join Wallester? What attracted you to the company and its AML department specifically?

When I was asked why I decided to join Wallester, my answer was simple - the people who work here are what attracted me the most. I have worked in various organisations and have witnessed several incidents, including crimes and fraud patterns. I have gained valuable experience and skills that I am eager to apply to a company with driven, energetic, and ambitious people.

Wallester exudes a dynamic and ambitious spirit, positioning itself as a promising contender to become the next European unicorn. I greatly admire the individuals leading this organisation, including Sergei Astafjev, Dmitri Logvinenko, Fred Sooläte, and Reimo Hammerberg. Along with their team of highly skilled professionals, they take immense pride in their work and are truly experts in their field.

I appreciate this attitude - when the spirit of self-development and improvement drives people. So far, Wallester has shown incredible results in its infrastructure and security measures. I am thrilled to join the team, work towards a bright future alongside a team of enthusiastic and passionate people, and learn more about the card business.

The Impact on Wallester AS

Strengthening Trust

With Aivar Paul as the head of money laundering prevention, Wallester AS can assure its stakeholders of its commitment to maintaining the highest standards of financial integrity. A strong AML strategy is not just about compliance but about building customer trust.

Future Opportunities

There's potential for Wallester AS to branch out into new areas, offering consultancy or technological solutions to other firms seeking to bolster their AML strategies, especially with Aivar Paul's expertise backing them.

Conclusion

The addition of Aivar Paul as a board member at Wallester AS represents a strategic move to reinforce the company's commitment to combating money laundering and maintaining financial integrity. With his extensive AML background, Aivar brings invaluable expertise to enhance Wallester's efforts.

Aivar's alignment with Wallester's innovative and results-driven culture makes for a promising partnership. The company's dedication to self-improvement and its skilled team set the stage for cutting-edge AML solutions.

In conclusion, Aivar Paul's appointment signals a significant step toward realising Wallester's AML vision. His expertise, combined with Wallester's dynamic approach, promises a brighter and more secure future in the evolving realm of financial security and integrity, positively impacting the fight against financial crimes and money laundering.

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