Latvian central bank chief says victim of smear campaign after detention

Marco Green
February 23, 2018

The Bank of Latvia said its operations were not affected by Rimsevics' detention, adding it is not in a position to provide comment on the Corruption Prevention Bureau's actions.

Latvia's financial system has been rocked in recent days by US allegations that a leading bank engaged in money laundering and, separately, by the arrest of central bank governor Ilmars Rimsevics.

While Rimsevics is now facing political calls to step down, Latvia's prime minister Maris Kucinskis said on Tuesday that the Norvik Bank accusations could be an attempt to "disrupt the reputation of the Latvian state". He said he would not resign.

"I have not demanded or received any bribes", he told press.

Rimsevics was detained on Saturday evening after questioned by Latvia's anti-corruption authorities. "I have become the target of some Latvian commercial banks to destroy Latvia's reputation". Neither Norvik Bank nor Guselnikov immediately responded to requests from Reuters for comment.

Although the bank said that details about the dispute remain confidential, the Latvian TV investigative news program "Nothing personal" has alleged that a senior Latvian official in the banking sector has asked the bank to pay bribes or face sanctions from Latvia's banking regulator the official allegedly had influence over.

Kucinskis also said he and other officials had no reason to interfere with the anti-corruption agency's work.

Latvian anti-corruption authorities detained the veteran governor of the Latvian Central Bank, Ilmars Rimsevics, the office of the country's Prime Minister announced on Sunday.

A number of small Latvian banks have been fined in recent years over breaches of money-laundering and financing of terrorism rules.

Washington has "for many years. been working together with Latvia to combat corruption, money laundering and other threats to global security" and will continue to do so, Nauert said in a statement released late on Tuesday. It called on February 13 for sanctions on ABLV, which it said had "institutionalized money laundering" and helped clients avoid sanctions on North Korea.

FinCEN said non-resident banking in Latvia increased the risk that criminals and shell companies could conduct fraudulent transactions or hide their financial dealings.

ABLV rejected the allegations, but has had to apply for emergency liquidity assistance from the central bank while the ECB has blocked its payments until it comes up with a crisis plan. While the freeze halted deposit outflows, sources close to discussions said ABLV would be given just days to show it can meet its financial obligations.

"Each day that Mr. Rimsevics remains in the central bank's leadership significantly worsens" the situation, Reizniece-Ozola said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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