Latvia's central bank governor is taking his country to court

Latvia's central bank governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs said March 21 he was taking his country to court.

The latest extraordinary move in the unusual case in which Rimšēvičs finds himself embroiled will see him taking Latvia to the Court of Justice of the European Union, according to his lawyer Saulvedis Vārpiņš, reported LSM's Latvian language service.

The claim is based upon restrictions placed upon Rimšēvičs by the KNAB anti-corruption police, who are investigating claims he solicited or accepted a large bribe. The restrictions prevent him carrying out his duties at the Latvian Central Bank (Latvijas Banka) despite the fact that he remains in the job and there is effectively no way of removing him from the post if he chooses not to resign, or until a conviction for a criminal offense is obtained.

However, the restrictions also mean he cannot leave the country - which in turn means he cannot go to Frankfurt to carry out his duties as a member of the governing council of the European Central Bank (ECB).

As previously reported by LSM, on March 8 ECB head Mario Draghi said the ECB was already seeking guidance from the courts on the legality of the restrictions placed on Rimšēvičs.

According to the claim submitted by Vārpiņš on Rimšēvičs' behalf, EU and Latvian law does not provide for the temporary withdrawal of the powers of the central bank head during the pre-trial investigations.

The Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) has interfered with the independence of the European Central Bank (ECB) through its procedural decisions, Vārpiņš claimed, saying: "It has long been established in European Union law that such a practice is false and unlawful."

Therefore the Court of Justice of the European Union has been asked to give its assessment, the lawyer said.

Rimšēvičs also does not dispute the investigating authorities' right to investigate the activities of the LB president, and Rimšēviča has a quick investigation of his case, the lawyer pointed out.

The investigation continues. No formal charges have yet been brought and Rimšēvičs has repeatedly denied soliciting or accepting bribes. In response to his arrest in February he alleged a grand conspiracy against him by non-resident banks.

 

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