Luxembourg – Latvia’s anti-corruption unit violated EU law when it temporarily suspended the country’s top central banker, Ilmars Rimsevics, in 2018 on suspicion of bribery, the top EU court ruled on Tuesday.
First time for the ECJ
Rimsevics, who is a member of the European Central Bank (ECB), was also slapped with a fine and a temporary travel ban. He has denied the charges.
However, Latvia has not shown sufficient evidence to back its decision to suspend Rimsevics, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled.
This is the first instance in which the ECJ has reviewed a case of a central banker’s suspension, an authority that is outlined in the charter of the European Central Bank (ECB). The ECB had referred the case to the ECJ.
This provision is designed to protect the independence of the governors of the national central banks, who serve both their country and the ECB system.
Not enough evidence
The Luxembourg judges noted that they were not responsible for assessing criminal liability as such, as that is a matter for national courts.
Rather, they concluded that Latvia had not provided enough evidence to justify the suspension – a matter that does fall under the ECJ’s jurisdiction.
Removing a central bank governor is justified only if there are “sufficient indications that he has engaged in serious misconduct,” the judges wrote in a press release.
“Latvia did not provide any prima facie evidence of the accusations of bribery which were the basis for the adoption of the decision at issue,” they added.
The ECJ ruling now means that his suspension is annulled.