Peter Kazimir, who heads Slovakia’s central bank, said the allegations against him were unfounded.
Peter Kazimir, a member of the Board of Governors of the European Central Bank, has been charged with corruption in Slovakia, where politicians are stepping up pressure to try to expel him.
Kazimir, who heads the country’s central bank, has dismissed the allegations. His lawyer, Ondrej Mularcik, said the governor had been made aware of the charges and would press charges against them.
“I do not feel guilty of any crime,” Kazimir said in a statement released by the central bank on Tuesday. He said the allegations against him were unfounded. An ECB spokeswoman made no comment.
The Board of Governors is no stranger to its members experiencing legal problems. Over the past decade, members from Cyprus to Latvia and Slovenia have faced charges or accusations that have raised complaints from the ECB for violation of central bank independence. Under EU law, governments are prohibited from firing central bankers unless serious misconduct is proven.
The corruption charges against Kazimir are linked to his role as finance minister in the government of Prime Minister Robert Fico, who lost power in 2020, the Sme newspaper reported. Kazimir has held his current position since 2019.
Kazimir defied political pressure to resign as an investigation unfolded. He is the most senior member of the former Slovak cabinet to be caught up in an anti-corruption campaign by the government, which seized power last year after a campaign focused on fighting corruption.
The allegations will now be investigated, a process that will take at least four months, and then a court will decide whether or not that warrants a charge. If found guilty, the charge carries a sentence of two to five years in prison.
Peter Kremsky, a legislator in the ruling coalition in Slovakia, told the DennikN newspaper on Wednesday that he would submit a proposal to a parliamentary committee next week asking the government to demand the president to remove Kazimir from his post. Under Slovak law, cases relating to the dismissal of central bank governors are decided by EU courts.
Kazimir is the second central bank governor of an eastern eurozone country to face corruption allegations. In 2018, Ilmars Rimsevics, a former Latvian member of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank, was arrested and subsequently charged.
Rimsevics is fighting a criminal charge he sought as a bribe in exchange for helping the now-deceased Trasta Komercbanka with regulatory issues. His arrest was part of a series of scandals that threatened the reputation of the financial industry in the eurozone nation. He denies all the charges and blames a group of banks for his legal problems.
In a case heard by the European Court of Justice over the Rimsevics case, an adviser said in April that members of the ECB’s Governing Council enjoy broad immunity from prosecution in the course of their official duties.
Immunity should prevent “legal proceedings being instituted or national restraint measures being adopted” before there is “an agreement with the institution to which this person belongs”, then declared the general counsel. Juliane Kokott in a non-binding opinion. A full judgment on the case is still pending.
Former Prime Minister Fico’s record-breaking reign ended in a wave of public anger over the assassination of an investigative journalist who wrote about the links between crime and politics. Anti-government protests ultimately toppled the administration.
After the new government came to power, a series of officials were arrested, including a former deputy justice minister, a special prosecutor and a police chief – although authorities have so far not charged no senior politician.