Bank of Latvia governor detained amid new corruption probe – Xinhua

RIGA, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) — Bank of Latvia Governor Ilmars Rimsevics has been detained in the early hours of Sunday amid a new bribery probe launched by the Baltic country’s anti-corruption watchdog, the local media reported.

Earlier on Saturday, the Latvian Corruption Prevention Bureau’s operatives conducted searches at Rimsevics’ office and residence outside Riga.

The head of the Latvian central bank returned to Riga from a foreign trip on Saturday evening and was driven by his lawyer to the Corruption Prevention Bureau’s office where he was interrogated for nearly eight hours.

According to public media reports, Maris Martinsons, a businessman involved in various construction and payday loan businesses, has also been detained in connection with the probe, reportedly on suspicions of organized graft.

Neither the Corruption Prevention Bureau nor Rimsevics’ lawyer have given any comments to the media as yet.

Latvia’s Diena daily reported on Saturday that the anti-corruption bureau’s new criminal investigation against Rimsevics and Martinsons concerned organized graft, extortion and mediation of bribery. Investigators suspect that an organized criminal group, which has been operating in Latvia for quite a long time, has been using its members’ office powers and political influence to extort bribes, including from credit institutions.

Latvian Economics Minister Arvils Aseradens commented on public radio Sunday that Rimsevics’ arrest poses serious risks to Latvia’s international reputation. The law enforcement agencies are doing their job, the minister said, adding that he only learned about the Bank of Latvia governor’s detention from media reports.

Aseradens believes that if Rimsevics is indeed implicated in organized corruption, the best solution for him would be to resign, especially because being under arrest, he is unable to perform his duties as head of the central bank.

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Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis said on Twitter he was going to call a meeting of the National Security Council on Monday to address the “situation in the banking sector”.