An orange sky is seen over the banking district of Frankfurt, Germany, on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Latvia loses case to suspend indicted ECB official

February 26, 2019 - 7:52 am

LUXEMBOURG (AP) — The European Union's top court on Tuesday overturned Latvia's decision to suspend a member of the European Central Bank while he is investigated for alleged bribery in a scandal that has shaken the country.

The EU Court of Justice said that Ilmars Rimsevics, the governor of the Bank of Latvia and a member of the ECB's influential rate-setting governing council, cannot be kept from performing his duties.

Latvian authorities had blocked him while they investigated him on charges of taking bribes. Rimsevics has denied any wrongdoing.

The case is a first for the ECB, which oversees monetary policy for the 19 countries that use the euro, as it has never before had to go to court to get one of its top executives restored to office pending a trial.

Rimsevics and the ECB had argued that central bankers should only be suspended when convicted of a crime. The court said Latvia did not present enough evidence for Rimsevics to be suspended immediately, before a trial begins.

The court's ruling is not about whether Rimsevics is guilty, but whether his suspension is lawful.

Latvian prosecutors charged Rimsevics in June with accepting bribes — including 500,000 euros ($580,000) and a paid fishing vacation to eastern Russia — from a local bank in exchange for helping it with the financial regulator. Two shareholders in the now-defunct Trasta Komercbanka reported the case to law enforcement authorities.

Another banker, Grigory Guselnikov, has also leveled accusation against Rimsevics that share similarities with the allegations of the Trasta Komercbanka shareholders.

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