Known as the author of the scandalous mutatis mutandis amendments eight years ago, Maris Grudulis has become Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis’ freelance advisor for political parties’ cooperation matters, as reported by De Facto programme of LTV.
Saeima’s opposition had related the amendments that would have benefited money launderers with Airvars Lembergs’ interests. The Union of Greens and Farmers, on the other hand, denied criticisms. Grudulis, who is also a sworn attorney arbitrator and the Honorary Consul of Monaco Principality, has been proposed as a candidate for the Prime Minister’s office by UGF Saeima faction’s leader Augusts Brigmanis.
The Latin term mutatis mutandis was first became well-known in Latvia nine years ago. 9th Saeima UGF deputy Vilnis Edvins Bresis added it to one of his proposals before the approval of the Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing in the final reading. Opposite to what the responsible committee had decided, the majority of deputies of the 9th Saeima supported Bresis’ proposals.
Although the Latin phrase had people joking around, consequences of the approved amendments could have been very serious. Those amendments would have significantly limited the ability of law enforcement institutions to combat money laundering activities. The offered redaction of the law would have narrowed down the definition of finances that are to be considered illegally acquired and actions that are to be considered aimed at laundering said finances. Following protests from law enforcement authorities President Valdis Zatlers sent amendments back for a repeated review.
Then it became known that the true author of the compromising amendments was not Bresis. They were developed by the advisor of the Union of Greens and Farmers – Maris Grudulis, who remains proud of his work to this day. «You see, that event was loudly played out by the press. In reality, all those amendments were compiled properly and correctly,» – said Grudulis.
Maris Kucinskis should remember the mutatis mutandis experience in the 9th Saeima well. He was then the head of the People’s Party faction, which, along with Harmony Centre and Latvia’s First Party/Latvian Way voted in favour of Bresis-Grudulis’ proposals for the money laundering law. After that particular failure of the parliament, Kucinskis blamed everything on surface analysis and promised that the faction would take into consideration the opinion of the prosecutor’s office.
Now Kucinskis, as Prime Minister, regularly emphasizes the importance of Latvia’s membership in OECD. Among the work needed to be completed in order to achieve that are important regulations to improve supervision over banks and prevent risks related to money laundering activities in Latvia’s banking system. This has not prevented the Prime Minister from appointing Grudulis as his freelance advisor for matters related to the cooperation of political parties.
«I do not have the time to resolve any possible disputes among UGF, Green Party, Ventspils and Liepaja. This will be his duty. Although, I have to admit there have not been any problematic disputes,» – Kucinskis describes his subordinate’s duties, adding that they may include the party’s interior function.
Grudulis had already been a freelance advisor in the past. He was added to the team of then the non-party Electronic Affairs Minister Ina Gudele following recommendations from UGF. After that, Grudulis worked as a consultant to UGF’s Saeima faction.
Seven years ago, Grudulis participate in European Parliament elections from the list of the Union of Greens and Farmers. The next time the media mentioned Grudulis again was 2011. When Transport Ministry was first managed by UGF representative Uldis Augulis, Grudulis was attracted as a legal advisor for airBaltic airline. Personally, Grudulis provides no comments on this fact: «You see, there is one thing I will never comment on – relations with my clients. Unlike, perhaps other law firms, we will neither confirm nor deny that specific individuals are our client.»
The Prime Minister’s advisor denies any risks of a conflict of interests. He does, however, provide an answer to the question if there are currently any state companies among his clients: «If there are any unfinished cases left from previous years, then yes. Currently, however, I would say no.»
Grudulis does not deny having friendly relationships with multiple people from Transport Ministry’s political management. For example, the head of the Transport Minister’s office, Arturs Neimanis, is Gdudulis’ study buddy. According to his declaration, Grudulis had paid back a debt of EUR 10,000 last year. Artis Stucka, the Transport Minister’s advisor, is another one of Grudilis acquaintances from his study period. The two have recently worked together professionally. Several years ago, the two had represented Aivars Lembergs in the Administrative Court where the Ventspils official challenged the order given by then the Environmental Protection and Regional Development Minister Edmunds Sprudzs to dismiss the infamous oligarch from his post in Ventspils City Council.
Now Grudulis goes to the Cabinet of Ministers twice a week to participate in meetings of the Prime Minister’s office. Not all of his colleagues, however, know exactly what Grudulis does there, seeing as though he mostly listens during discussions. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, has no suspicions about his freelance advisor.
«The moment I feel his presence could bring more harm than good, believe me, we will part ways,» – promises Kucinskis, adding that there have not been any reasons for that so far.
Kucinskis admits that he did not choose Grudulis as his advisor on his own – it was Augusts Brigmanis’ idea. The latter does not deny that. He adds that there can never be enough lawyers on the team. «I am more interested in having that person contribute to Kucinskis; work with his experience,» – explains the head of UGF’s faction.
When asked about Grudulis and the context of the Latin phrase mutatis mutandis now used by the media in relation to his name, Brigmanis says: «Is that bad? It is a proper legal term. […] We can look for contexts and historic nuisances in many places.»