Friday 20 April 2018

Latvian banking chief will not resign following bribery probe

Ilmars Rimsevics, who is also on the European Central Bank’s top policy-making council, insisted he is not guilty.

Ilmars Rimsevics insists he has done nothing wrong (AP)
Ilmars Rimsevics insists he has done nothing wrong (AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

Ilmars Rimsevics, who is also on the European Central Bank’s top policy-making council, said he had “made a decision not to step down because I am not guilty”.

The Associated Press reported that the chairman of local Latvian bank Norvik, Grigory Guselnikov, said Mr Rimsevics had asked for bribes since 2015.

At a news conference, Mr Rimsevics said “my retreat would allow a man like Guselnikov to triumph”.

Mr Rimsevics was detained on Saturday and released two days later on bail.

In response, Mr Guselnikov said Mr Rimsevics’ comments were contradictory, saying: “He (Rimsevics) says that he does not regulate the banking industry, that it is the financial regulator. Then why would commercial banks try to attack him? If he thinks commercial banks are attacking him, he’s admitting that he’s involved in financial regulation.”

Mr Guselnikov claimed that Mr Rimsevics told him that the financial regulator was loyal to him personally, and that he used that to threaten his bank with regulatory measures.

He said his bank “still aims to find a win-win settlement with Latvia” in the arbitration process.

The Norvik chief also claimed that his bank had been asked by Mr Rimsevics’ associate to launder 100 million dollars (£71 million) from Russia.

Mr Rimsevics acknowledged knowing the middleman Mr Guselnikov mentioned, Renars Kokins, but said he had met him only once with Mr Guselnikov.

Latvia’s president, prime minister and finance minister have all called on Mr Rimsevics to step down from his post, at least while an investigation is under way. The government cannot force him to step down — only a court can — because the central bank is politically independent.

The stand-off risks destabilising the country’s financial system, where one bank, ABLV, has already needed a rescue loan from the central bank to remain afloat.

This comes after the US Treasury said last week that ABLV had “institutionalised money laundering” and recommended that ABLV be cut off from dollar transactions with US banks.

The AP also published a photo that shows Mr Rimsevics on a trip in 2010 that shows him in the company of the then-chief of a Russian military technology company. Data from the Russian border agency obtained by the AP shows Mr Rimsevics was in Russia at the time.

Mr Rimsevics said he did go on a fishing trip in the Russian region of Kamchatka in 2010, but that he does not know anybody in the photo and that the picture was likely tampered with.

The Latvian banking chief also said he had received death threats, which he had reported to the police.

Press Association

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