Slovakia central bank governor Kazimir faces renewed bribery charges

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File picture of Slovakia's Peter KazimirImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
Peter Kazimir was Slovakia's finance minister from 2012 until 2019

The head of Slovakia's central bank, Peter Kazimir, is facing bribery charges for a second time.

Prosecutors had earlier dropped charges over the alleged bribe, which goes back to when he was a finance minister.

He has condemned the allegation and denies any wrongdoing.

Mr Kazimir sits on the European Central Bank's governing council and was Slovak finance minister from 2012 until 2019 under the centre-left government of the Smer party.

"The accusation that I should have bribed a senior [tax] official is an absolute lie," he said in a statement from the National Bank of Slovakia. "I have not committed any crime."

In June, the special prosecutor's office dropped the charge, and asked prosecutors to review the case. The central bank governor's lawyer said the National Criminal Agency's decision to resurrect the charges disrespected the prosecutors' decision.

Corruption has dogged Slovakia for years. When the centre left came to power in 2012 they replaced a party plagued by financial scandal and then they too were thrown out by voters who backed a new government that made tackling corruption a top issue.

Since then, dozens of public officials have been accused of corruption.

Among them is Frantisek Imrecze, a former head of the tax administration who is being prosecuted in several cases and is co-operating with the police.

Mr Kazimir was initially charged last year with corruption. According to Slovak media, he was alleged to have acted as an intermediary in giving Mr Imrecze a bribe of nearly €50,000 (£43,000).

But the case was dropped, reportedly because it was based solely on the evidence of Mr Imrecze.

Mr Imrecze has now asked for police protection after a tracking device was found under his car. Slovak media said he feared for his life.

The National Criminal Agency has charged several people, including Mr Imrecze, as part of its so-called Mytnik operation into allegations of corruption in the procurement of large IT systems for the financial administration.

Mr Imrecze resigned from his post as head of Slovakia's financial administration in 2018 after the EU's anti-fraud office, Olaf, uncovered alleged fraud involving undervalued textile imports entering the EU from China.

The losses are thought to have cost the EU millions of euros in underpaid customs fees and sales tax.

In 2018, a young investigative journalist who wrote about corrupt businessmen was murdered.

The killing of Jan Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, triggered protests that triggered the downfall of Slovakia's prime minister, Robert Fico, and the chief of police.

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