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Lawyer: Rimšēvičs as member of ECB Council has immunity from criminal proceedings

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The accused: Bank of Latvia governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs (L) and businessman Māris Martinsons (R)

Mārtiņš Kvēps, lawyer of the corruption-accused governor of Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs, believes, as a member of the European Central Bank, his client has immunity from criminal proceedings, criminal prosecution and criminal charges. This is why on Monday, 4 November, Rimšēvičs’ defender decided to ask Riga District Court in Jurmala to turn to the European Court of Justice so that it can make a pre-judicial decision on this matter.

Kvēps justified his request by saying that in accordance with his client’s immunity, it is not possible to raise charges for actions related to his post in ECB. According to the defence, if the office of the prosecutor wants to raise charges against Rimšēvičs for such activities, they have to turn to the ECB with a request to revoke Rimšēvičs’ immunity. Kvēps also referenced reports from European Union Court of Justice advocate general in the case in which Rimšēvičs was restored in his post as governor of the Bank of Latvia. Kvēps interpreted the words of the advocate general as it was not possible to raise charges against Rimšēvičs,

Prosecutor Viorika Jirgena noted that the matter on the expansion of the term of immunity should not be asked to the European Court of Justice, because the moment the initial case was decided, the court has been able to evaluate any violations of Rimšēvičs’ criminal procedural rights, but this was not done.

Rimšēvičs voiced certainty at the beginning of the court hearing that the process itself will be transparent and quick, but his defender Māris Mezītis submitted a request to the court to view the case behind closed doors, saying that materials of the case contain sensitive information associated with operations of different commercial banks in Latvia, as well as answers provided by ECB to questions asked during the pre-trial process and provided with top secrecy.

The prosecutor presiding over the case decided to object the defence’s request, saying that she sees no reason to view the case behind closed doors.

Other lawyers told the court that by viewing the case in an open court process there is a risk of breaching the rights of commercial banks, because materials of the case contain reports on operations, which means this information is considered commercial secret. Other lawyers agreed it is necessary to halt the litigation in order to request European Union Court of Justice to provide its pre-judicial decision.

Rimšēvičs also told the court that his client is not using immunity as member of ECB Council to avoid responsibility. Instead, he said it is sort of filter against unjustified accusations. He also said the case would benefit from another high-ranking opinion.

Riga District Court will have to decide on submitter requests.

On Tuesday, 4 November, Rimšēvičs told journalists prior to the court session that he denies all guilt in the crimes he is accused of. He added that he hopes the case will be reviewed quickly.

«I am very happy the court session can begin today. I think it is very important to ensure the process is quick and fair. I don’t think I should add that I completely deny all accusations,» he said prior to the session.

As previously reported, Riga District Court in Jurmala commenced the viewing of the criminal case in which Rimšēvičs and businessman Māris Martinsons are accused of corruption. The case is viewed by Judge Gundega Lapiņa.

As previously reported, the case was initially sent to Riga City Vidzeme Suburb Court because, according to the prosecution, the crime was committed in Riga. However, the court decided to send the case to a court of justice in Jurmala, stating that the last crime detailed in the case was committed in Jurmala.

Rimšēvičs is accused of two crimes: acceptance of a bribe (paid leisure trip) and acceptance of a monetary bribe. He is also accused of money laundering.

Martinsons is accused of two crimes: supporting bribe offer and supporting bribe-taking. Like Rimšēvičs, he is also accused of money laundering.

The criminal case also details a process against some company for application of coercive measures.

On 24 May, Prosecutor Jirgena made a new decision, amending and expanding charges against both of the accused. On top of the aforementioned charges, the two are also accused of laundering EUR 250 000 of illegally obtained funds.

Read also: Informal talks commence about Bank of Latvia governor’s possible successor

On 24 May 2019 prosecutor Jirgena made the decision to amend and expand charges against Rimšēvičs and Martinsons – on top of existing charges, the two are also accused of laundering EUR 250 000 of illegally obtained funds.

The Office of the Prosecutor General believes Rimšēvičs had used the EUR 250 000 bribe to acquire real estate on behalf of some company, and the governor of the Bank of Latvia later became a co-owner of said real estate. A judicial process has also been launched against this company for enforcement of coercive measures, because money laundering was performed on behalf of this legal person. The Office of the Prosecutor does not reveal the name of this company, but public broadcaster TV3 programme Nekā personīga had previously reported that the expanded charges are related to the business deal in which Martinsons’ owned MM Investīcijas had purchased real estate in Jurmala, Baznīcas Street 2.

Prosecutor Jirgena informed journalists in summer 2018 that Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) commenced this case following a request from two shareholders of the now liquidated Trasta Komercbanka. The two shareholders are bribe-givers in the criminal case, but they have been relieved of criminal liability because they had voluntarily reported the crime to authorities.

One of the forms of assistance Rimšēvičs had provided included preparing answers to FCMC questions in relation to liquidity and non-resident affairs.

Jirgena also explained that Rimšēvičs failed to complete requests so he was paid only part of the money – EUR 250 000. According to the prosecutor, Martinsons was a mediator in this crime – he received 10% of the bribe amount. The prosecutor adds that bribery was performed using cash.

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