Latvia Adds Laundering to Charges Against ECB's Rimsevics

(Bloomberg) -- Latvian prosecutors expanded charges against European Central Bank Governing Council member Ilmars Rimsevics to include laundering the 250,000-euro ($280,000) bribe he’s already accused of soliciting from a commercial bank that was later closed.

Rimsevics’s brief detention in 2018 was part of a storm to hit the Baltic nation’s financial sector, coming less than a week after the U.S. Treasury accused its No. 3 lender of money laundering, sparking its demise. Rimsevics, who denies wrongdoing and blames a group of banks for his troubles, is back at work after a ruling by the European Union Court of Justice overruled Latvian law enforcement. His case hasn’t been sent to court yet.

The prosecutor in charge of the case, Viorika Jirgena, decided to add the new charge, which carries a potential 12-year prison sentence, on May 24, spokeswoman Laura Majevska said Tuesday in an emailed statement. The initial charge, from almost a year ago, could send Rimsevics to jail for 11 years.

‘Mystical’ Sum

Rimsevics “categorically denies asking for or taking money,” Aldis Pundurs, a former prosecutor and one of Rimsevics’s lawyers, said by email. The prosecutor hasn’t been able to show “one specific instance of bribe -giving or -taking. No specific sums, no place, time or specific person or persons who gave it, or how it was given, in cash or by transfer. There’s just a mystical final sum.”

A conversation between Rimsevics and a co-defendant covered a real estate development project, and prosecutors are wrongly concluding that this is where the alleged bribe went, Pundurs said.

Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins’s government is trying to repair his country’s image, appease the U.S. Treasury and stay off a list of countries that can’t bring money launderers to book. He wants to replace the leadership of the bank regulator and tighten rules on suspicious funds.

Rimsevics, who’s been either governor or deputy governor of the Latvian central bank since 1992, has ignored calls by the president and parliament to resign. His term ends in December.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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