Latvia’s top banking official and key European Central Bank member Ilmārs Rimšēvičs is currently facing accusations of bribery and money laundering. Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis confirmed that Rimšēvičs has been detained, but has offered no official details on the case.
Dana Reizniece-Ozola — Latvia’s Finance Minister — has already called for Rimšēvičs’s resignation, saying the accused official should minimally resign his post while he is under an active investigation. The Latvian parliament alone cannot force Rimšēvičs out unless there is evidence of a crime.
Rimšēvičs — apart from being a key Latvian official — also sits on the top policymaking council of the ECB. Connections to money laundering are particularly problematic in this exalted perch, critics argue, and such a step from the straight and narrow is inviting Russian blackmail.
Latvia has had a long, well-documented history of laundering Moscow’s money since gaining its independence in the early 90s.
And globally, that reputation as Russia’s money laundering partner has costs. The U.S. Treasury has warned American banks to steer clear of one of Latvia’s largest banks, ABLV, which it accuses “has institutionalized money laundering.”
The Treasury reports that ABLV’s disregard for measures against money laundering and terrorism financing made it “attractive to a range of illicit actors engaged in organized crime, weapons proliferation, corruption and sanctions evasion.”
The news out of Latvia comes as the small baltic state has warned that Russia is actively trying to obtain state secrets from Latvian officials. It also notes these accusation come in tandem with Russia’s efforts to weaken the U.S. and the EU by, for example, interfering in the U.S. presidential election.
The finance minister, Reizniece-Ozola, has said that despite the rather disturbing run of headlines of late, “the Latvian financial system is stable.”