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Latvia’s Central Bank Chief Tried for Bribery, Taking Russian Holiday

Latvia’s Central Bank chief Ilmars Rimsevics, 54, a sitting member of the European Central Bank (ECB) board despite being accused of taking half of a 500,000-euro ($551,913) and accepting a Russian holiday is finally on trial in a critical case for the Eurozone’s governing body.
The ECB’s reputation has taken a hit during the long-running saga that saw Rimsevices unable to be unseated, coinciding with the $230 billion Danske Bank scandal that ensnared many of the European Union’s top banks and exposed weaknesses in governance.
The ECB oversees financial value in the Eurozone, which includes 19 of the 28 countries in the bloc, excluding those who opted out of using the currency.
As soon as the trial began, it was pushed back for review until Dec. 20 as the court rejected a request by his defense counsel, Martins Kyeps. to have sessions held in private. The judge added that it would be decided at the next hearing whether the European Court of Justice (ECJ) had to be consulted as well.
Kyeps said that as a member of the ECB board, his client would be immune from criminal prosecution even for allegedly taking bribes and asked the Riga District Court to to turn to the ECJ, according to the Latvia Information Agency (LETA).
But Rimsevics told the court he wouldn’t use immunity to escape prosecution although he said that it is a “filter” against unfounded accusations as he denied any charges of wrongdoing.
“I am very happy that the trial is finally beginning today. I believe it is very important that the trial be quick and fair. Needless to say that I, of course, reject all the allegations and accusations made against me,” Rimsevics said, the news agency added.
Rimsevics appeared in court alongside Latvian businessman Maris Martinsons, who prosecutors say acted as a middleman with part of the evidence based on conversations between the defendants in a sauna, secretly recorded by Latvian investigators, Reuters reported.
Jirgena earlier said the bribery dates back to 2010, when the shareholders paid for Rimsevics to spend a vacation in Kamchatka, a wilderness region in Russia’s far east. In return Rimsevics helped them prepare answers to questions from the Latvian regulator, the Financial and Capital Market Commission (FCMC).
Later, in 2012, the shareholders agreed to pay him 500,000 euros in two equal installments, in return for Rimsevics using his influence to soften treatment of the bank, the charges included with dirty Russian money said to have been filtered through their former Soviet states in the Baltics as the bloc struggles to deal with money laundering.
He is still sitting on the ECB board, reinstated after being suspended by the state with the ECB challenging his removal. The prosecutor alleges Rimsevics was unsuccessful in preventing Trasta Komercbanka’s demise and shareholders refused to pay the second 250,000 Euro installment.
The bank closed in 2016 after the Latvian regulator said it had broken money-laundering rules.
The shareholders approached Latvian anti-corruption investigators, handing over evidence of the bribery.

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