Slovak police renew bribery charge against central bank governor Kazimir - lawyer

Slovakia's Finance Minister Peter Kazimir attends the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong

(Reuters) -Slovak police have resurrected a bribery charge against Slovak central bank Governor and European Central Bank policymaker Peter Kazimir, his lawyer said on Thursday, while Kazimir called the allegation a lie.

Prosecutors had previously dropped the charge over the alleged bribe, which dates back to when Kazimir was a finance minister in a past government.

"The (police unit) NAKA charged Mr. Kazimir for basically the same act as he was indicted for a year ago," Kazimir's lawyer, Ondrej Mularcik, said.

"In our opinion, this does not respect the legal opinion of the prosecutor general," he said. "We will file a complaint against it within the legal time limit. The governor does not feel guilty, he has not committed any criminal offence."

In October 2021, the euro zone country's Special Prosecutor's office charged Kazimir with a "corruption-related crime". It dropped the charge in June, while also telling prosecutors to review the case. The police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kazimir was finance minister from 2012 until 2019, nominated by the leftist SMER party.

Slovak news website reported last year when charges were first brought that Kazimir was a "courier" who brought an around 50,000 euro bribe to the then-chief of the country's tax administration.

Kazimir denied the charge again on Thursday.

"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."

SMER was knocked out of government in 2020 by a coalition of parties promising to clean up corruption.

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.

The ECB declined to comment.

In 2018, Latvia barred its central bank governor from office and prevented him from taking part in ECB meetings after he was accused by its public prosecutor of taking a bribe, an accusation the governor denied.

(Reporting by Robert Muller and Jason Hovet; additional reporting by Francesco Canepa in FRANKFURT; editing by Alex Richardson and Philippa Fletcher)