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Rimšēvičs claims bribe was from Trasta komercbanka, and Martinsons worked as mediator

lmārs Rimšēvičs/flickr.com/Bank of Latvia.
The criminal case launched by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (CPCB) against the governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs is associated with events from 2013 and Trasta komerbanka, which currently undergoes liquidation.

Representatives of Trasta komerbanka are involved in several criminal processes associated with money laundering. State Police have secured valuable testimony from members of the bank’s board. Testimonies were used as the reason for CPCB’s operations, as reported by De Facto programme of LTV.

CPCB suspects Rimšēvičs of requesting and accepting a bribe. The other suspect in the criminal process is businessman Māris Martinsons, who is accused of supporting bribery. Both suspects deny the allegations against them. However, information acquired by De Facto about events investigated by law enforcement officers allows for a certain look at the case. However, certain sensitive details that could potentially put the investigation at risk are not published by De Facto at this time.

Trasta komercbanka’s license was revoked two years ago. The European Central Bank decided to revoke the license following a request from the Finance and Capital Commission. The reason lies in serious violations of the bank’s operations that lasted a long time. «The bank enjoyed lenient treatment for a long time,» FCMC director Pēters Putniņš reported.

De Facto is aware that FCMC had concerns about Trasta komercbanka for a long time. «This is where Rimšēvičs’ role plays out. His duties have not included monitoring of banks for several years. However, he continues participating in the regulator’s meetings as an advisor. On top of that, the governor of the Bank of Latvia plays a major role in selection of the director and deputy director of FCMC – candidates for those posts are proposed to the Saeima by LB governor together with the finance minister,» LTV adds.

In addition, Rimšēvičs, who has been in charge of the Bank of Latvia for seventeen years, has wide contacts among members of Latvia’s political and business circles. He admits this as much: «It is in my character – I have always trusted and have been open to people. I am always open to meeting with people to make sure everything is alright,» he said during his press conference on 20 February.

Rimšēvičs knows businessman Māris Martinsons as well. Before entering the business arena, he was a notable player in different fields. He was even present in the fast loans industry for a time. «I know him, but I can’t comment anything here. We are not associated with business or friendship ties. We have no mutual relationship,» said the governor of the Bank of Latvia about Martinsons during the press-conference.

De Facto is aware that, according to investigators’ version, Martinsons served as a mediator of some kind in this case. Supposedly he is considered someone who can ‘settle affairs’ and establish contact with Rimšēvičs for people directly or indirectly associated with Trasta komercbanka. Martinsons provided guarantees for mutual trust between the two sides. He also made sure there were no provocations with possible involvement of police officers. This is why CPCB has launched a criminal case in relation to the EUR 100,000 bribe.

It is currently unknown what exactly prompted CPCB to consider bribery in relation to Trasta komercbanka. Nevertheless, problems appeared for this bank a couple of years later. These problems turned out quite serious and not easily resolved. State Police Economic Crimes Prevention Office started investigating criminal cases in relation to possible involvement of Trasta komercbanka in money laundering activities.

Former management members of Trasta komercbanka, as well as the representative of the bank’s largest owner – Igors Buimisters – told De Facto that none of their clients agreed to provide comments on the situation publicly. Nevertheless, it is entirely possible that some of the persons investigated by the police have decided to testify, which would benefit KNAB in a major way.

Perhaps this example is what prompted Chief of CPCB Jēkabs Straume to voice a proposal on 19 February. «I would like to especially invite representatives of credit institutions with information about bribery or extortion to report everything to CPCB. I should mention that in accordance with Section 324 of the Criminal Law, a person who gave a bribe is eligible to be relieved of criminal liability if they voluntarily report the crime to authorities.»

The fact that current criminal case handled by CPCB is associated with Trasta komercbanka has been confirmed by Rimšēvičs, who categorically refused speaking of this bank, yet continues to comment on others, such as Norvik and ABLV Bank, the programme notes.

Last week, Rimšēvičs promised to hold an interview with De Facto multiple times. Later, however he said he was too busy and mentioned he would be free this week instead. A tight schedule has not prevented him from giving interviews to foreign business media, however. He did tell them, among other things, that he had received certain bribery proposals in the past, but decided against reporting this to authorities. Whether or not Rimšēvičs has informed CPCB of that, he did not say over the phone: «No, no! Don’t ask me about that. Please understand – I have signed an NDA. I cannot say a thing. If I could, I would.»

CPCB organized a press-conference in relation to the ongoing criminal processes in the banking sector together with State Police. The two sides praised their cooperation. «Our cooperation has been continuing for some time. We are united by a common goal – the fight against organized crime in all of its forms,» said State Police Criminal Police Chief Andrejs Grišins.

Rimšēvičs makes himself out as a victim. He calls the situation as ‘coordinated conspiracy’. He says is not well-informed of organized crime operation in Latvia’s financial sector. Meanwhile, several criminal processes associated with the banking sector and inspections are not in a hurry to put to rest the version regarding possible organized crime activities, De Facto reports.

The programme reports that the criminal process in relation to the possible bribery and money laundering in the interest of clients is not the only one associated with Trasta komercbanka. The bank’s insolvency process, which was led by the now former administrator Ilmārs Krūms, had ended up in the sights of law enforcement institutions. Krūms is accused of extortion in an organized group and legalization of illegally obtained funds. The prosecutor’s office reports that the group included another former administrator – Māris Sprūds.

De Facto also reported that Rimšēvičs has admitted meeting with Sprūds on multiple occasions to discuss legislative drafts, but not insolvency cases.


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