ECB looks to top court for ruling on Latvia bank chief

Latvia's central bank chief Ilmars Rimsevics faces allegations that he received bribes of at least 100,000 euros

Frankfurt am Main (AFP) – The European Central Bank said Friday it had asked the EU’s top court to rule on Latvian authorities’ treatment of the country’s central bank chief — a member of its governing council — over graft allegations.

The ECB has asked the European Court of Justice for “a ruling on whether Latvian authorities have breached European Union law” by suspending Ilmars Rimsevics from his post and preventing him from attending ECB meetings, the central bank said in a statement.

ECB President Mario Draghi said at his last press conference in early March that governors “don’t have enough information” on the case and would call on the court for its view.

It will be up to the ECJ to clear up “whether individual security measures imposed on the governor have had the effect of relieving him from office and these measures comply with Union law,” Draghi said.

Rimsevics faces allegations that he received bribes of at least 100,000 euros ($122,000), prompting the Baltic nation’s central bank to bar him from working on its premises.

“Members of the council and the Board of Latvijas Banka ensure uninterrupted functioning of the national central bank,” the institution assured in a February press release.

But under European law, Latvia’s seat on the 25-member ECB governing council is held by the central bank chief personally, not the bank itself.

That means unless Rimsevics is definitively removed, the nation will not be represented alongside the other 18 eurozone members at regular governors’ meetings in Frankfurt.

Latvian lawmakers last month passed a non-binding resolution calling on the central banker to resign.

“Mr Rimsevics remaining in the position of the Governor of the Bank of Latvia may undermine future decisions made by the Bank of Latvia, cast a shadow of doubt on the institutional and legal capacity of the Bank of Latvia, and harm Latvia’s national interests,” they said.

But Rimsevics himself has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

His lawyers said last month they would challenge the restrictions on his ability to travel and to work with cases at the ECJ and in Latvian courts.