Latvian cenbank governor sues government over curbs on ECB work

RIGA, March 21 (Reuters) - Latvian central bank governor Ilmars Rimsevics, a suspect in a bribery investigation, is suing the Latvian government in Europe’s top court for restricting his ability to work at the European Central Bank (ECB), his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Rimsevics, who sits on the ECB’s Governing Council, was detained by anti-corruption agents last month on suspicion of soliciting a bribe of at least 100,000 euros ($123,000).

He has denied wrongdoing and refused to resign, creating a political dilemma for the Latvian government, which cannot sack him, and an embarrassment for the ECB, whose meetings he cannot now attend.

“We are at the very beginning. The case has been initiated,” Rimsevics lawyer Martins Kveps told Reuters with respect to a complaint filed with the European Court of Justice. ECJ officials were not immediately available for comment.

Kveps did not say what demands Rimsevics was making in the case, only that it was citing restrictions on his powers.

For its part, the ECB has asked the ECJ to rule whether the restrictions imposed on Rimsevics comply with the bank’s rules, which say governors can only be relieved of office if they can’t fulfill their duties or are “guilty of serious misconduct”.

The Latvian central bank has also stripped Rimsevics of his salary and barred him from accessing documents.

The 52-year-old economist has headed the Latvian central bank since 2001. Latvia joined the European Union in 2004. (Reporting by Gederts Gelzis; editing by Johannes Hellstrom and Mark Heinrich)