December 3, 2019 / 1:37 PM / 9 days ago

Latvia picks new central banker who cut ties with indicted Rimsevics

RIGA, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Lavia’s ruling parties picked former Swedbank economist Martin Kazaks as the next head of the country’s central bank on Tuesday, replacing Ilmars Rimsevics who has been accused of corruption.

Kazaks has publicly distanced himself from Rimsevics, with whom he had been on fishing trips before bribery allegations became public in early 2018.

If his appointment is confirmed by the Latvian parliament, Kazaks will represent his country on the European Central Bank’s Governing Council, which sets monetary policy for the 19 countries that share the euro.

Kazaks, who holds a doctorate in economics from the Queen Mary University of London, joined the Latvijas Banka’s own council in August 2018. He had worked in Latvia as an economist for Swedish lender Swedbank since 2005.

Kazaks said on Twitter in September he had agreed to join the Latvian central bank only after being assured that his appointment had not been requested by Rimsevics, with whom he had cut ties.

“From the time when (Rimsevics) was accused, I actually haven’t met with him, even personally, outside my working hours,” Kazaks said in a book about his links to the current governor, who appeared in court on bribery charges last month.

He was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

Kazaks was set to replace Rimsevics on Dec. 21, when the latter’s term runs out, provided the Latvian parliament confirms the appointment in a Dec. 12 vote.

Swedbank is itself under investigation by U.S. authorities for its role in a money-laundering scandal in the Baltics.

Rimsevics, who was reinstated as central bank governor after the ECB challenged his suspension from office, will attend his final Governing Council meeting in Frankfurt on Dec. 12.

Reporting By Gederts Gelzis; Writing by Francesco Canepa; Editing by Catherine Evans

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