December 3, 2019 / 4:28 PM / 12 days ago

UPDATE 1-Latvia's next central banker pledges integrity after scandals

(Adds quotes from Kazaks)

RIGA, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Latvia’s next central bank governor Martin Kazaks pledged to act “with integrity” on Tuesday as he sought to draw a line under corruption and money-laundering scandals under incumbent Ilmars Rimsevics.

Kazaks, a central bank official and former Swedbank economist, was nominated by Latvia’s ruling parties on Tuesday.

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

“What the bank has to do is act with integrity, act responsibly and do the best it can to support the Latvian economy,” Kazaks told Reuters in a phone interview.

Current governor Ilmars Rimsevics has been accused of accepting the offer of a 500,000-euro bribe and taking a paid holiday in Russia.

During his term, Latvian bank ABLV was shut down on accusations by the United States that it was linked to North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, money laundering and Russian corruption.

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

He also said he had agreed to join the Latvian central bank only after being assured that his appointment had not been requested by Rimsevics.

“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.

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.

He is 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 and Christina Fincher)

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