Latvian central bank boss Rimšēvičs: "I will not step down."

At an extraordinary 75-minute press conference February 20, central bank governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs said he will not step down from the job he has held since 2001, despite calls from the President, Prime Minister, Finance Minister and others to do so in the wake of an investigation into his affairs by the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB).

"Today we will not talk about inflation or GDP growth," he quipped at the beginning of the press conference, though things quickly became more serious, with him describing a "coordinated campaign by some of Latvia's commercial banks with the purpose of discrediting the Latvian state" and undermining the authority of the central bank as an institution and himself as its head.

"I understand the situation is extremely complicated... I have had fantastic support from people, from people I do not know, from my friends, from my family," he said before announcing:

"At the moment I've taken the decision not to step down, because I'm not guilty," Rimšēvičs told a packed room of local and international media, saying that to do so as a result of lies would be the wrong decision and might rob him of the right to a fair and speedy trial.

"My resignation would allow such people as [Norvik bank owner Grigory] Guselnikov to triumph, to continue falsifying photographs on the internet, spreading lies over many pages and so forth," he said.

During a wide-ranging piece of self-justification, Rimšēvičs flatly denied accounts that he had solicited bribes from any banks, denied he had ever interfered with the business of the financial regulator and said that he had received death threats.

"All the accusations [in criminal proceedings] are false, I have not sought or taken bribes from anyone," he vowed.

He characterised ABLV bank and Norvik bank as institutions desperately trying to save themselves from financial ruin and reserved particular ire for Guselnikov in particular. 

Some of the most colorful episodes came when describing trips in Russia's Kamchatka republic. These had been nothing more than innocent fishing trips and he had not known the people who accompanied him on group excursions, he said, when asked if influential figures had been among their number.

His lawyer also cast doubts on the veracity of photographs apparently showing Rimšēvičs enjoying the hospitality of his hosts, which were published yesterday by the Associated Press.

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