Central banker Rimšēvičs: it's all about the Kamchatka fishing trip

Embattled Latvian central bank president Ilmārs Rimšēvičs said June 28 that charges being brought against him for bribe-taking boil down to whether or not be paid for a fishing trip in 2013.

Speaking to LTV's Ivo Leitans outside the office of the Prosecutor General where he had just been presented with the charges against him, Rimšēvičs continued to deny his guilt and expressed astonishment.

"I am accused of having allegedly not paid for my fishing trip to Kamchatka, which seems to me to be close to incredible. And I am accused of suggesting to a commercial bank, that if they did not comply with my, so to speak, requests and orders, I could impede the operation of this bank. I completely denied all these allegations."

However, the bank governor - who has refused to step down from his position ever since allegations first surfaced in February and appears determined to carry on in his role even now - did not state whether he had paid for the fishing trip, which created a storm of its own when a photograph of Rimšēvičs in Kamchatka emerged in a piece by the Associated Press.

That in turn prompted the Latvian Defense Ministry to allege a disinformation campaign was being run against him and Prime Minister Maris Kučinskis to talk about a deliberate provocation. However, backing for the central bank governor from officials now seems to be in shorter supply.

More details of the case against Rimšēvičs and an associate of his, Maris Martinsons were released to the press Friday morning by the Prosecutor General's office at a specially convened press conference.

Special prosecutor Viorika Jirgena told the press that shareholders of now-defunct Trasta komercbanka had reported to the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) that in the period from 2010, the Governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs had taken bribes from them. The shareholders of Trasta komercbanka claimed they had paid for the now-notorious fishing trip to Kamchatka, but later paid some €250,000 to the president of the central bank in several installments. In total they alleged that a bribe of €500,000 had been arranged but when the bank hit the skids, the other half was not paid.

Jirgena pointed out that the charges are currently related to two episodes that took place in 2010 and 2013. Rimšēvičs, as President of the central bank, was informed about the decisions of the Financial and Capital Market Commission (FKTK) regarding Trasta komercbanka in accordance with his post, and it is alleged that he overstepped the mark in his responses to that information, bringing FKTK's independence of action in doubt and resulting in decisions favorable to the bank. 

The prosecutor confirmed that part of the evidence rests on audio recordings, though she did not say why such recording had been made nor why no case had been brought at the time of the alleged incidents if law enforcement agencies were aware of what was going on.

However, she reminded the press that the proof of guilt or otherwise will be decided in court, while being reluctant to say how long the legal process might take, other than to state that the pre-trial investigation would take "several months" and that the case might reach the courts by the end of the year.

No press questions were taken.

If found guilty of the charges, Rimšēvičs and Martinsons could face up to 11 years in prison.

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