RIGA, Latvia (AP) — Latvia’s central bank chief, who is on the board of the European Central Bank, will be prosecuted for bribery in a scandal that has highlighted the EU country’s problems with corruption and money laundering.
The move by the Latvian prosecutor-general on Thursday follows four months of investigation of Ilmars Rimsevics, who had been first questioned in February of taking bribes. Rimsevics denies all wrongdoing.
The Associated Press has reported one banker’s tale of being asked repeatedly by Rimsevics for bribes and also money laundering from Russia. The allegations raised questions about foreign influence of a key European official. Latvian secret services are currently investigating that link.
Because Rimesvics is on the ECB’s top policymaking board, his case has gained international significance. Worried about not being able to function properly with a board member missing, the ECB had asked the European Court of Justice to rule on whether Rimsevics should be allowed to continue in his job while not charged with a crime.
Prosecutors in Latvia, a tiny Baltic state that’s a member of the European Union and NATO, also charged another individual, left unnamed, with supporting the bribe-taking. Latvian public TV said the individual was businessman Maris Martinsons, citing his lawyer, Didzis Vilemsons, as confirming that.
The U.S. has also accused one Latvian bank of proactively laundering money from countries like Russia and North Korea to evade sanctions. It said the bank, ABLV, also bribed officials in Latvia to be able to carry out its dirty transactions.
The report caused ABLV to collapse within days and forced the Latvian government to overhaul its financial sector by limiting business with foreigners.