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The governor of Latvia's central bank, Ilmars Rimsevics
Image: Reuters/I. Kalnins

Latvia's banking head held in corruption probe

February 18, 2018

State television showed Ilmars Rimsevics arriving at the anti-corruption agency where he was questioned for more than seven hours. The prime minister said there was no danger for the financial system.


The head of Latvia's central bank, Ilmars Rimsevics, has been detained by the national anti-corruption agency.

Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis issued a statement Sunday confirming: "The Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) has applied the status of being detained to the Governor of Bank of Latvia."

Kucinskis emphasized that the country's economic system was not imperiled. "At the moment neither I nor other officials have a reason to intervene in KNAB's work," Kucinskis said in the statement, adding that there was "no indication of a danger for the Latvian financial system."

Latvia: In the shadow of Russia

Saturday evening Latvian state TV showed Rimsevics arriving at the anti-corruption agency by car. The broadcaster also reported Rimsevics' office and one of his properties had been raided by authorities.

The banking chief was questioned for about seven hours before being taken to another location at about 1:30 am on Sunday, according to a Baltic News Service (BNS) journalist reporting from the scene. 

A spokeswoman for the Latvian anti-corruption agency was quoted by the BNS as saying: "The KNAB will comment on this matter and issue an explanation as soon as it will be possible to do so and will not hinder the investigation." 

Policymaker with ECB

Rimsevics has headed the central bank since 2001 and has been a member of the European Central Bank's governing council since Latvia joined the eurozone in 2014.

Latvia is one of the three Baltic nations that became independent after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. It has been accused of acting as a money laundering funnel for Russian capital. In 2014, a number of leaked documents, the so-called Laundromat reports, detailed how billions were sent from Russia through Latvia in the years 2011-2014.

The US Treasury last week told banks not to make dollar transactions with one of Latvia's biggest banks, ABLV, which it said "has institutionalized money laundering," including for companies linked to North Korea's banned ballistic missile program, according to the US Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). ABLV has been banned from opening or maintaining a correspondent account in the United States.

The office of the Latvian president said the National Security Council was due to meet next week to discuss the banking sector.

Read more: Latvia sacks anti-corruption chief

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bik/jm (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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