Central banker Rimšēvičs gives new forecasts, but focus is elsewhere

Latvian central bank chief Ilmārs Rimšēvičs took center stage for the first time in months June 7 at a press conference that was supposed to be about macroeconomic forecasts - but found himself upstaged by a protester who managed to stand next to him at the heart of the central bank while displaying an embarrassing placard.

As recently reported by the Bloomberg newswire, Rimšēvičs has been charged with both soliciting and attempting to launder a massive bribe from a bank. He denies the accusation and has refused to step down.

On Friday he attempted to return to his duties in a public manner by presenting the macroeconomic data as he did before the scandal around him broke in February 2018, telling journalists that the Bank of Latvia has reduced its forecast of GDP growth for this year from 3.5% to 2.9%. The inflation forecast remained unchanged at 2.9% for the year.

However, the air of normality was short lived as the protester unfurled a poster (partially visible 7 minutes into the video below) showing Rimšēvičs' face and the words "No shame?".

The central bank boss was visibly shaken by the intervention before soldiering on through the rest of his presentation as journalists and bank officials alike looked on with a certain amount of confusion. At the end of his presentation, the silent protester sat down and journalists started to ask questions - which inevitably focused on the status of his legal affairs and the reputation of the bank rather than macroeconomic details and percentage points.

Again, Rimšēvičs denied any wrongdoing and said it was appropriate for him to continue representing the bank in public, suggesting that current attempts to crack down on money laundering as part of a government reform plan are very important and defending his own track record on countering money laundering.

 

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