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Latvia starts criminal probe of its central bank chief

Jari Tanner, Associated Press

HELSINKI (AP) -- Latvia's anti-corruption agency says it suspects the nation's central bank chief of demanding and receiving bribes of at least 100,000 euros ($125,000) and has started a criminal investigation against him.

The agency said Monday that no formal charges have so far been filed against Ilmars Rimsevics, who is also on the top policymaking council of the European Central Bank.

On Friday, the agency raided the office and a property of Rimsevics and detained him on Saturday.

Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis said after an extraordinary Cabinet meeting Monday that the central banker will face "restrictions" to be announced later.

He was quoted by the Baltic News Service as saying: "At the very minimum, he will be banned from continuing in office."

Rimsevics has served as Bank of Latvia's governor since 2001. Latvia joined the euro-zone in 2014.

Meanwhile, Latvia's financial regulator has ordered the crisis-struck ABLV Bank to cease all payments on the request of the European Central Bank amid U.S. accusations of money laundering and breaching sanctions on North Korea.

The ECB said Monday that the Financial and Capital Markets Commission of Latvia has imposed "a prohibition of all payments by ABLV Bank on its financial liabilities" until further notice.

The ECB noted that ABLV has seen a sharp deterioration of its financial position in recent days.

Latvia's central bank said separately that it would loan ABLV 97.5 million euros ($121 million) against "a reliable pledge of highly liquid securities" instead of 480 million euros ABLV had requested.

ABLV is Latvia's third largest bank by assets.