The European Court of Justice has overturned the suspension of the Governor of the Bank of Latvia, Ilmars Rimsevics, on the grounds that Latvia failed to provide evidence of the crimes of which he was accused.
Rimsevics was charged with receiving a bribe in June 2018 and suspended from his post at the head of his country’s central bank. As a member of the euro area, Latvia’s central bank governor also sits on the Governing Council of the European Central Bank.
Rimsevics and the ECB both challenged the decision in the European courts, claiming that his absence risks depriving Latvia of its vote in the ECB and jeopardise the bank’s independence and reputation.
In its ruling yesterday, the Court of Justice of the European Union said that while a central bank governor may be suspended if under investigation, this should only happen where there are “sufficient indications that the governor is involved in serious misconduct”. According to the Court, however, “Latvia has not offered any kind of evidence to support bribery accusations.”
The court’s decision comes after Attorney General Juliane Kokott argued in December that Latvia had not presented evidence of corruption and that suspending him from his post during the investigation amounted to his dismissal.
In June 2018, at the time of the indictment, the Latvian prosecutor claimed that two shareholders of a Latvian bank closed in 2016 for money laundering and fraud had accused the governor of claiming a bribe to keep it afloat.
While the ruling is a victory for Rimsevics, he is unlikely to return to his position. The Latvian authorities have imposed security measures and have banned him from leaving the country, preventing him from holding the post.