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Another twist in Rimšēvičs case sees witness retracting statement

The trial of former Latvian central bank governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs has taken another twist with a key witness moving to retract sworn statements he had previously given, reported Latvian Television January 26.

While a European court assesses whether the former Governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs, accused of soliciting bribes, is immune from trial -- an assessment likely to take months -- witness Viktors Ziemelis now claims his testimony was extracted under pressure from officials.

The prosecutor's office denies such presure was exerted.

Rimšēvičs has been accused of accepting bribes from the shareholders of Trasta komercbanka, which has been shut down by regulators. However, the proceedings have been suspended for more than a year, as the Rīga District Court is awaiting clarification from the European Court of Justice as to whether Rimšēvičs is protected from trial by being a member of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank when the alleged offenses took place. 

Meanwhile Rimšēvičs' lawyer Mārtiņš Kvēps has announced that the former board member of Trasta komercbanka Viktors Ziemelis no longer admits he bribed Rimšēvičs, and that his earlier testimony to that effect was made under duress.

"What is important to us is that this man says that he did not tell the truth, which we were really sure of a very long time ago," commented Kvēps.

The lawyer believes that this significantly weakens the evidence against his client. 

The prosecutor's office confirmed that an application had been received from Ziemelis' lawyer claiming his original statement was made under pressure. However, the prosecutor's office replied that it had found no evidence supporting the claim.

Prosecutor Viorika Jirgena said that the case against Rimšēvičs does not rely only on testimony from Ziemelis. 

"There are 60 witnesses in the case, there is other evidence, directly and indirectly, to prove his [Rimšēvičs' guilt. It will now be up to the court and my own work to prove that he committed the crime," the prosecutor said.

Despite being potentially one of the highest-profile cases in Latvian legal history, the case is expected to take a very, very long time, as is often the case, and it is likely to throw up plenty more twists and legal maneuvers along the way.

As reported at the time by LSM, Rimšēvičs' detention by anti-corruption officers in 2018 caused an international sensation. He refused to step down from his position and has consistently denied his guilt.

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