Slovak court fines ECB's Kazimir for bribery, case will go to trial

April 13, 2023 09:42 PM AEST | By Reuters
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(Adds appeal sending case to trial, background)

PRAGUE, April 13 (Reuters) - A Slovak court said on Thursday it had convicted national bank governor and European Central Bank (ECB) policymaker Peter Kazimir in a bribery-related case and fined him 100,000 euros ($110,200), but the decision will be re-examined in a trial after a prosecutor's appeal.

Kazimir, currently attending the World Bank and International Monetary Fund spring meetings in the United States, has previously denied wrongdoing.

The indictment concerned "suspicion of corrupt criminal activity in connection with tax audits against several commercial companies" when Kazimir was finance minister in a previous government, prosecutors said in February.

In October 2021 the euro zone country's special prosecutor's office charged Kazimir with a "corruption-related crime" but withdrew the charge last June pending a review. Slovak police revived the charge last November.

The ruling was made by a criminal warrant - based on evidence submitted during the investigation - and not in a full trial.

The decision was for the crime of bribery, the court said, meaning offering, promising or providing a bribe according to the Slovak criminal code. The court said in a statement it has not taken legal effect pending time for appeals.

A spokesperson for Slovakia's Special Prosecution which filed the case against Kazimir said it had already filed an appeal, which means the case will go to a full trial.

The central bank declined to comment, referring questions to Kazimir's lawyer. The lawyer, Ondrej Mularcik, also declined to comment until he received the court's ruling.

The ECB declined to comment.

A final conviction of a deliberate crime could cost Kazimir his position, which he has held since 2019 under a six-year mandate.

Slovak central bank law states that a criminal record clear of final convictions of deliberate crime is a condition to sit on the central bank's board. A member can be dismissed in the case that they cease to meet the conditions.

Slovak central bank governors are appointed and dismissed by the president on recommendation of the cabinet and also subject to approval in parliament.

In October 2021 Slovak news website, citing several unidentified sources, reported that Kazimir was charged in a case related to an alleged bribe for a former Slovak tax administration chief, who had been charged in several cases and was then cooperating with investigators.

The news website said Kazimir was accused of being a "courier" who carried a bribe of some 50,000 euros related to unspecified tax proceedings to the tax chief. It was not clear from the report where the money allegedly came from.

Kazimir was finance minister from 2012 to 2019 before being nominated as central bank governor by the leftist SMER party that lost power in 2020.

($1 = 0.9074 euros) (Reporting by Robert Muller, Jason Hovet and Jan Lopatka; additional reporting by Balasz Koranyi in Washington; editing by Alison Williams, Mark Heinrich, Kirsten Donovan)


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