Latvian Banking Chief Won't Resign

Latvian Banking Chief Won't Resign

RIGA, Latvia (AP) -- The head of Latvia's central bank says he will not resign following an investigation into suspected bribery and an Associated Press report on allegations that he sought bribes from a local bank.

Ilmars Rimsevics, who is also on the European Central Bank's top policymaking council, said Tuesday he had "made a decision not to step down because I am not guilty."

The AP reported Monday that the chairman of local bank Norvik, Grigory Guselnikov, says Rimsevics had asked for bribes since 2015.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Rimsevics said "my retreat would allow a man like Guselnikov to triumph."

Rimsevics was detained Saturday and released two days later on bail. He has not been charged, though the anti-corruption authorities have started an investigation into suspected bribery.

Latvia's president, prime minister and finance minister have all called on Rimsevics to step down from his post, at least while an investigation is underway. The government cannot force him to step down — only a court can — because the central bank is politically independent.

The standoff risks destabilizing the country's financial system, where one bank, ABLV, has already needed a rescue loan from the central bank to remain afloat and has been prohibited by the European Central Bank from making any payments after the U.S. Treasury called it a haven for money laundering.

The AP on Monday also published a photo that shows Rimsevics on a trip in Russia in 2010 that shows him in the company of the then-chief of a Russian military technology company.

Rimsevics said Tuesday that he did go on a fishing trip in the Russian region of Kamchatka in 2010 and that he knows nobody in the photo and that the picture was likely tampered with.

The Latvian banking chief claimed that he had become the target of some commercial banks in Latvia and that he had received death threats, which he had reported to the police.