Latvia Accuses Its Central Bank Governor of Laundering Bribe Money
06 Jun 2019

Latvia’s Ministry of Justice has added charges of money laundering to its ongoing bribery case against European Central Bank Governing Council member Ilmars Rimsevics, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.

Latvian prosecutors last year accused Rimsevics of soliciting a bribe of €500,000 from a since-shuttered bank that was alleged to have violated money laundering laws. Rimsevics, who purportedly received half of the requested sum, currently serves as the governor of Latvia’s central bank and has remained on the ECB’s council following a court ruling earlier this year that permitted him to stay pending proof of wrongdoing.

The ministry formally charged Rimsevics with laundering the money on 24 May, adding a potential 12-year prison sentence to the maximum 11-year prison term he faced for alleged bribery, the news outlet said.

In April, the ECB took over direct supervision of PNB Banka after the bank’s owner, Grigoriy Guselnikov, filed a request for international arbitration against the Latvian government, Reuters reported. The request accuses Rimsevics of using a €1.5 million fine against the bank by Latvia’s Financial and Capital Market Commission as a “goad to extort” money, the news outlet said.

The Latvian commission issued the fine against PNB, then called Norvik, for allowing clients to violate EU and UN sanctions on North Korea.

An attorney for Rimsevics told Bloomberg that he “categorically denies asking for or taking money,” adding that the prosecutor hasn’t been able to find “one specific instance of bribe-giving or -taking.” As for the purported size of the alleged bribe, that’s “just a mystical final sum,” the attorney said.

The initial charges of bribery separately coincided with allegations by US officials that Latvian bank ABLV had violated money laundering laws and sanctions against North Korea.

ABLV, which has since closed, permitted its employees to “orchestrate money laundering schemes” and served as a financial conduit for blacklisted entities, including North Korean officials and criminals linked to Azerbaijan, Russia and Ukraine, the US Treasury Department said in February 2018.

The department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, designated the now-defunct bank a “primary money laundering concern” under the US Patriot Act, effectively shutting the lender out of the US financial sector.

Photo: Ernests Dinka, Saeimas Kanceleja [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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