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ECB policymaker Kazimir rejects calls to quit after corruption charge

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By Reuters
Slovak ECB policymaker Kazimir charged with 'corruption-related crime'
Slovak ECB policymaker Kazimir charged with 'corruption-related crime'   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021
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PRAGUE -Slovak central bank governor and European Central Bank policymaker Peter Kazimir said on Wednesday he would remain in office and fight charges of bribery amid calls to consider standing down.

Kazimir, a member of the ECB‘s governing council, reiterated he was innocent and would appeal the prosecutor’s charges, an early stage of proceedings before a decision is made whether the charged person stands trial.

“This accusation is not directly connected with the (Slovak) National Bank’s activity,” Kazimir said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.

“I am working on an appeal against the charges. I did not commit any crime and I will fulfil my duties as governor going forward.”

The euro zone country’s Special Prosecutor’s office confirmed on Wednesday that Kazimir, 53, had been charged on Oct. 8 with a “corruption-related crime”. It gave no further details.

Kazimir’s lawyer, Ondrej Mularcik, said on Tuesday Kazimir was charged with the lowest of three severities of crime in Slovakia’s penal code that is punishable by up to five years in prison, but gave no details.

President Zuzana Caputova, a former anti-graft activist and lawyer, said earlier on Wednesday Kazimir should consider resigning.

“In Peter Kazimir’s situation, I would consider resigning from the post of NBS (National Bank of Slovakia) governor to protect the institution he is representing,” Caputova said.

Kazimir said he respected Caputova’s values and understood her position but would not quit.

“I feel this accusation as a gross injustice and I will do everything to clear my name and to defend the institution that I represent,” he said.

Finance Minister Igor Matovic also said Kazimir should ponder stepping aside.

“He should consider himself what he has done or not,” Matovic said in a video sent by his ministry to media outlets. “It is a serious accusation, and if it is true, then of course he should not stay at his post.”

Under Slovak law, the central bank chief is appointed by the president after being nominated by the government and approved by parliament, and can be dismissed if he or she stops meeting criteria which include a clean criminal record.

ECB Governing Council members can be removed if they have been found guilty of serious misconduct or authorities provide sufficient evidence that they have engaged in such misconduct.

Kazimir was finance minister from 2012 until 2019, nominated by the leftist SMER party, before he assumed his six-year term at the helm of the central bank.

Slovak news website aktuality.sk reported on Tuesday Kazimir was a “courier” who brought an around 50,000 euro ($57,845) bribe to the then-chief of the country’s tax administration, who is now being investigated for several crimes and is cooperating with police. It did not identify its source.

Slovakia’s new government, elected in March 2020, has launched a series of corruption investigations involving public officials following a voter backlash over the 2018 murder of a journalist who investigated high-level graft.

($1 = 0.8644 euros)