Latvian central bank boss denies bribery allegations

Latvia's central bank chief Ilmars Rimsevics faces allegations that he received bribes of at least 100,000 euros

Latvia's central bank governor Ilmars Rimsevics, who is suspected of bribe-taking by anti-corruption authorities, claimed he was innocent in an interview with the Financial Times published Friday.

The eurozone member's longtime governor, who was appointed in 2001 and also sits on the European Central Bank governing council, was detained last weekend by the Corruption Prevention Bureau (KNAB) and accused of having solicited and received a bribe of at least 100,000 euros ($125,000).

Now out on bail, though barred from carrying out his duties, Rimsevics claimed that the accusations were the doing of several banks upset over his attempts to improve transparency regarding the bank accounts of non-residents in the Baltic country neighbouring Russia.

"I just vehemently deny (these allegations)... I could only guess that I have been a very inconvenient public figure for several financial institutions in this country, thus making them for an extended period of time try to gather some evidence or (organise) provocations in order to remove me," he told the Financial Times.

"It is a well-orchestrated action in concert among several individuals and banks who have served non-resident clients at various times... to whom I have become a burden."

He believes the allegations against him are a result of his efforts to have banks undergo audits by US law firms in 2016 and 2017, which had lowered their profits.

Just days after Rimsevics was detained, Latvia's financial sector got another shock, when the European Central Bank (ECB) announced it was freezing payments by the country's third largest bank, ABLV, because its finances had deteriorated in the wake of money laundering allegations from Washington.

Several senior Latvian officials said there was no link between the two matters.

Last week the US Department of the Treasury named ABLV "an institution of primary money laundering concern" and accused it of connections to North Korea's weapons development programme.

Latvian police announced Friday they had begun probing the money laundering claims.

The private sector bank's CEO Ernest Bernis for his part told reporters on Thursday that ABLV had sold a good chunk of its securities portfolio and was now ready for the payment freeze to be lifted.