ECB to seek clarity on Rimsevics' role as Latvian central banker remains mired in scandal

By bne IntelliNews March 9, 2018

The European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi said on March 8 that the Eurozone’s central bank will seek clarity on what role the Latvian central bank governor Ilmars Rimsevics has taken in the ECB’s work.

The question arose after Rimsevics became subject to a probe by the Latvian anti-corruption police KNAB in February. The probe concerns “requesting and acceptance of a bribe” of at least €100,000 from a businessman.

On top of the KNAB investigation, Grigory Guselnikov, a Russian-born UK citizen who owns Latvia’s Norvik Bank, has reportedly claimed Rimsevics attempted to extort money from him in return for making “successful banking” possible in Latvia.

"The governing council [of the ECB] has decided unanimously to ask for clarification by the Court of Justice of the European Union whether individual security measures imposed on [Rimsevics] by the Latvian anti-corruption authority… have had the effect of relieving him from office and [whether] these measures comply with Union law,” Draghi told a press conference in Frankfurt.

Rimsevics denies any wrongdoing and has refused top Latvian politicians’ suggestions that he step down in order to not compromise Latvia’s efforts to crack down on corruption and money laundering in its banking system. A resolution calling upon Rimsevics to resign has been passed in the Latvian parliament.

Meanwhile, Latvian banks are apparently coming under increased pressure from the US about alleged money laundering.

A US indication that the Baltic state’s third largest bank ABLV was long involved in money laundering and facilitated transactions linked to the North Korean regime brought the bank down last month.

The US has reportedly now hinted that other banks are engaged in suspicious activity, Latvian Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola told local media following a meeting with the US Department of Treasury Assistant Secretary Marshall Billingslea in Riga on March 8.

“We are being told that banks are still used to transfer funds associated with persons, companies or countries on which sanctions have been imposed,” the minister said, according to LSM.

She said, however, that the US side only said that problems existed in the Latvian financial sector without giving details. Still, that is enough to require action, she said.

“The risks have to be reduced as quickly as possible. Banks must realise that they have to give up this dangerous type of business. Either they have to change their business methods or fold," Reizniece-Ozola said.

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