Trial of central banker Rimšēvičs starts in Jūrmala

One of the highest-profile trials in Latvian history got under way November 4 with central bank governor and European Central Bank governing council member Ilmārs Rimšēvičs appearing in court in Jūrmala on charges of corruption and money-laundering, alongside businessman Maris Martinsons, reported LTV.

Both men deny the accusations with Rimšēvičs' lawyer, Martins Kveps, suggesting that some of the evidence amassed against his client by the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) may have been illegally gathered - signalling what is likely to be a major element of the defense's argument.

Judge Gundega Lapiņa is in charge of the trial, after a previously-appointed judge, Inese Biteniece announced that she was quitting the legal profession entirely shortly after being handed the Rimšēvičs - despite being a young judge seemingly still in the early stages of her career.

The case was initially referred to the Riga City Vidzeme Suburb Court because, according to the prosecutor's office, the alleged crimes were committed in Riga. However, the Riga City Vidzeme Suburb Court then sent the case to be tried in Jūrmala, because the last offense mentioned in the case was allegedly committed in the seaside resort.

On arrival at the hearing, Rimšēvičs - arrested by anti-corruption officers in February 2018 -repeated his denials that he had ever accepted bribes and maintained his innocence and said he hoped the case would be dealt with as quickly as possible.

That, however, is likely to prove a folorn hope. Latvia's court system is notoriously slow when it comes to cases involving high-profile figures and corruption allegations. Cases against high-flying businessmen Kārlis Miķelsons (arrested on suspicion of taking bribes in 2010 in the so-called 'Latvenergo case') and Ugis Magonis (arrested in 2015 also on suspicion of taking bribes while in charge of the state-owned railway company) have been running for several years without conclusion and the most notorious case of all, involving Ventspils mayor and Greens and Farmers' Union kingpin Aivars Lembergs is now comfortably into its second decade. 

Yet in theory at least, criminal cases of public officials are given priority in the courts.

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