Slovakia's central bank chief fined for bribery, faces trial

FILE - Slovakia's central bank (NBS) governor Peter Kazimir during a press conference on "Rebuilding Europe after the COVID-19 pandemic" in Bratislava, June 29, 2020. A court official on Thursday, April 13, 2023 says governor of Slovakia's Central Bank the Peter Kazimir has been convicted of bribery and sentenced to a 100,000 euros ($110,000) fine. Katarina Kudjakova, a spokesman for the countrys Special Criminal Court says if the fine is not paid, the court has handed Kazimir a two-year-suspended sentence. (Martin Baumann/TASR via AP, file) (Martin Baumann, Tlačová agentúra SR)

BRATISLAVA – The head of Slovakia's central bank, who is a member of the European Central Bank committee that decides monetary policy for 20 countries, was convicted Thursday of bribery and fined 100,000 euros ($110,000).

The country’s Special Criminal Court handed National Bank of Slovakia Gov. Peter Kazimir a two-year suspended sentence, said Katarina Kudjakova, a spokesperson for the court. Not paying the fine would mean jail time.

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The verdict was issued without a trial, however, and the state prosecution service appealed it shortly afterward, sending the case back to court. Kazimir also could appeal.

Kazimir is accused of handing a bribe of 48,000 euros ($53,000) to the head of the country’s tax office related to a tax investigation of private companies, but few details were available because there was no trial.

Kazimir didn’t immediately comment, but he previously denied any wrongdoing.

President Zuzana Caputova said Kazimir should consider resigning, and Prime Minister Eduard Heger called it “unacceptable” for him to head the central bank.

Slovakia is one of 20 countries that use the euro currency, and Kazimir is a member of the European Central Bank's governing council, its main decision-making body. The ECB said it had no comment.

The case dates to when Kazimir served as finance minister from 2012 to 2019 in the leftist government of populist Prime Minister Robert Fico and was a member of Fico’s Smer-Social Democracy party before taking over his central bank job.

Smer lost the 2020 general election and was replaced by a coalition government whose parties campaigned on an anti-corruption ticket.

The new government made fighting corruption a key policy issue. Since it took power, a number of senior officials, police officers, judges, prosecutors, politicians and businesspeople have been charged with corruption and other crimes.

Slovakia faces an early election in September after the government lost a parliamentary no-confidence vote in December. Fico, who unlike the current government opposes military help for Ukraine against Russia, stands a chance to win the snap vote, recent polls suggested.

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