Mr Ilmārs Rimšēvičs, Governor of the Latvijas Banka (Bank of Latvia), was suspended from office by a decision of the Korupcijas novēršanas un apkarošanas birojs (Office for the prevention and combating of corruption, Latvia) because he is suspected of having traded in influence for the benefit of a Latvian bank.
The actions brought by Mr Rimšēvičs (C-202/18) and the European Central Bank (ECB) (C-238/18) against that decision are the first cases brought before the Court of Justice on the basis of the power conferred on it by Article 14.2 of the Statute of the European System of Central Banks and of the European Central Bank1 (‘the ESCB’ and ‘the ECB’, respectively) for a ruling on decisions relieving Governors of the central banks of the Member States from office.
That power derives, inter alia, from the fact that Governors of the central banks of the Member States whose currency is the euro, even though appointed and relieved from office by the Member States, are also members of a body forming part of an EU institution, that is, the Governing Council of the ECB.
In the Opinion, Advocate General Juliane Kokott proposes that the Court should rule that, by prohibiting Mr Rimšēvičs from performing his duties as Governor of the Bank of Latvia without providing the Court with evidence of the acts which it alleges he committed, the Republic of Latvia has failed to fulfil its obligations under the Statute of the ESCB and of the ECB. That statute provides that ‘a Governor may be relieved from office only if he no longer fulfils the conditions required for the performance of his duties or if he has been guilty of serious misconduct’. As the Advocate General points out, the Court’s task is to determine whether a Member State which has relieved a Governor of its central bank from office has shown to the requisite legal standard that those conditions are met.
First of all, the Advocate General observes that the measures adopted in the present case in respect of Mr Rimšēvičs, although temporary, nonetheless constitute being ‘relieved from office’ within the meaning of Article 14.2 of the Statute of the ESCB and of the ECB, because, in order for a measure to fall within its scope, that notion concerns not the form of that measure and its status under national law, but its substance and tangible effects. In the present case, the tangible effect of the measures imposed on Mr Rimšēvičs is that he is prevented from performing his duties as Governor of the Bank of Latvia and as member of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank.