Latvia’s central-bank chief has been released from custody on bail hours after the Baltic country’s anticorruption agency accused him of receiving at least 100,000 euros ($125,000) in bribes.
The Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) said on February 19 that no formal charges had been filed against Bank of Latvia Governor Ilmars Rimsevics, who was detained by police over the weekend.
Hours after the statement, the Delfi news portal showed video of Rimsevics leaving KNAB premises in Riga with his lawyer.
“I categorically disagree with [the charges],” Rimsevics said in the video to reporters at the scene.
Despite the denial of wrongdoing, Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis has called on Rimsevics to recuse himself from his duties while a criminal investigation against him is carried out.
Rimsevics has held the post since 2001 and is also a member of the European Central Bank’s (ECB) governing council.
Latvia is a European Union member and uses the euro as its currency.
KNAB did not elaborate on the charges against Rimsevics, but AP reported on February 19 that executives at Latvian bank Norvik said the central-bank chief sought to extort money from their firm for years.
According to the news agency, Norvik has filed an international complaint against Latvia in which it claims a “senior Latvian official” sought bribes from the bank and abused his power. Norvik’s CEO, Oliver Bramwell, told AP, “The high-level official mentioned in our request for arbitration is Rimsevics.”
Latvia’s financial sector is in upheaval with the investigation and a crisis at ABLV Bank, the country’s third-largest bank by assets.
Latvia’s financial regulator has ordered the bank to cease all payments after its liquidity position deteriorated sharply amid U.S. accusations of money laundering and breaching sanctions aimed at thwarting North Korea’s weapons program.
The Treasury Department said in a statement last week that ABLV also facilitated transactions linked to “large-scale illicit activity connected to Azerbaijan, Russia, and Ukraine.”
To shore up ABLV’s finances, the central bank has said that it will loan the bank 97.5 million euros ($121 million) against “a reliable pledge of highly liquid securities.”