Latvian defence ministry says corruption claims may be disinformation campaign


Riga: Corruption allegations that led to the suspension of Latvia’s central bank governor on Tuesday may be part of a disinformation campaign aimed at damaging trust in the country and influencing October elections, its Defence Ministry said.
It did not say who might be behind what it called a “massive information operation from outside”, but said it was “identical in structure and execution” to campaigns that preceded recent French, German and U.S. elections. Those have been blamed on Russia, which denies meddling in elections in the West. The Kremlin could not be reached for comment late on Tuesday and the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said it was unable to comment at this time.
The Latvian defence ministry’s statement, published in English, followed a string of corruption claims and counter-claims that rocked the financial sector of the Baltic euro zone state, which has close ties to neighbour and former political master Russia. They included accusations by the U.S. Treasury that Latvia’s third-largest lender, ABLV Bank, engaged in money laundering and helped breach sanctions on North Korea, as well as the detention of central bank chief Ilmars Rimsevics in a bribery probe.
Citing those events, the defence ministry said: “There is a high possibility that this is a wide information operation from outside and its aim is to show Latvia as (an) untrustworthy ally.” It said the operation, which it expected to continue, was probably aimed at influencing Latvia’s internal affairs and parliamentary elections due in October. The country has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years as a conduit for illicit financial activities.
Earlier, the prime minister’s office said Rimsevics, who has headed the central bank since 2001, had been suspended pending an investigation by Latvia’s anti-corruption agency into whether he solicited a 100,000 euro ($123,000) bribe.
The complaint against Rimsevics was made by small Latvian lender, Norvik Bank, Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis said.