ECB’s Kazimir Faces Growing Calls to Quit After Graft Charge
Slovakia’s president joined intensifying calls for the resignation of Peter Kazimir, a member of the European Central Bank’s Governing Council, who was charged with bribery in Slovakia.
Kazimir, who rejected the allegations, received notification of the charges and will file a complaint against them, according to his lawyer Ondrej Mularcik.
He’s the highest-ranking member of the previous Slovak cabinet to be caught up in an anti-corruption push by the government and has defied pressure to step down as an investigation unfolded. The case, according to the newspaper Sme, is related to his role as finance minister in the government that lost power in 2020.
“If I were Peter Kazimir, I would consider resigning,” President Zuzana Caputova, a former anti-corruption lawyer who won a landslide election victory in 2019, said on Facebook on Wednesday. “His departure from the post need not be considered an admission of guilt, but as a way to protect the credibility of the institution he is heading.”
The ECB’s Governing Council is no stranger to having its members enduring legal troubles. In the last decade, members from Cyprus to Latvia and Slovenia have faced charges or accusations that have raised complaints from the ECB of violating central bank independence. Under EU law, governments are forbidden from dismissing central bankers unless serious misconduct is proven. A spokeswoman from the ECB had no comment.
Peter Kremsky, a lawmaker from Slovakia’s ruling coalition, told the DennikN newspaper that he will submit a proposal to a parliamentary committee next week asking the government to demand the president to remove Kazimir from his post. Under Slovak law, cases related to dismissing central bank governors are decided by EU courts.
The allegations will now be investigated, a process that will last at least four months, and then a court will decide whether this warrants an indictment or not. If convicted, the charge carries a sentence of two to five years in prison.
“I haven’t committed any crime, and I will keep fulfilling my role as governor,” Kazimir said in an emailed statement. “I will do everything to clear my name and defend the institution I represent.”
The governor should step down if the accusations prove to be true, the TASR newswire cited Finance Minister Igor Matovic, the leader the country’s senior government party, as saying. But it would have to be his own decision because Kazimir’s immunity prevents his dismissal, Matovic said.
Read more: ECB Chiefs Enjoy Wide Diplomatic Immunity, EU Court Adviser Says
Kazimir is the second central bank governor from an eastern euro-area country to face bribery allegations. In 2018, Ilmars Rimsevics, a former Latvian member of the European Central Bank’s Governing Council, was detained and later charged.
Rimsevics is fighting an indictment that he solicited in bribes in exchange for helping the now-defunct Trasta Komercbanka with regulatory issues. He denies all charges and blames a group of banks for his legal problems.
In a case being heard by the European Court of Justice about Rimsevics’s case, an adviser said in a non-binding opinion in April that ECB Governing Council members enjoy wide immunity from prosecution in their formal duties. A full judgment on the case is still pending.
Before taking his current job, Kazimir had been a senior member in the party of former Prime Minister Robert Fico, whose record-long stint in power ended in a wave of public anger after the gunning down of an investigative journalist who wrote about links between crime and politics. Anti-government demonstrations eventually toppled Fico’s the administration.
After the new government rose to power, a string of officials were arrested, including a former deputy justice minister, a special prosecutor and a police chief, though authorities had not charged any top politicians until now.
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