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Sunday 19.05.2019 | Name days: Sibilla, Teika, Lita
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BNN summary of the week: scandal at Rīgas satiksme; Lembergs’ possible prison sentence; and Latvia’s 2019 budget

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUBNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Court; Conclusion; Funding; Decline; Change?; Worry; Detained.

COURT: Prosecutor for Lembergs’ case: criminal proceedings should be made more efficient

Criminal proceedings should be made more efficient, says prosecutor Juris Juriss, who is responsible for the criminal case involving suspended Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs.

According to him, Lembergs’ criminal case is one of the longest processes the prosecutor has ever experienced. Because of that, he believes it is important to discuss the possibility of making criminal proceedings more efficient.

Juriss says over the course of the past ten years, while Lembergs’ case was being processed, the legislator has added several changes to regulations to make proceedings more efficient. However, Lembergs’ case and similar processes the legislator can influence, speeding proceedings at the trial stage.

According to Juriss, currently the pre-trial period for criminal cases is much shorter than the trial process itself.

Incidentally, the next court hearing for Lembergs’ criminal case is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. 11 March.

During court debates on Thursday, 7 March, the prosecutor’s office asked the court to sentence infamous Ventspils City Council chairman Aivars Lembergs to eight years in prison with confiscation of property, as well as a fine of EUR 64,500, as confirmed by prosecutor Juris Juriss.

Full article here

CONCLUSION: Latvian Saeima to take more time discussing state president candidates

On Thursday, 7 March, Latvia’s Saeima approved amendments to the State President Election Law in the final reading. These amendments provide for extending the period between proposal of presidential candidates and Saeima’s vote for them, as BNN was told by the parliament’s press-service.

Information on candidates for the post of state president is to be submitted to the Saeima Praesidium in writing no earlier than 60 and no later than 55 days before the end of the ruling president’s term. Until now information was usually submitted no earlier than 50 and no later than 45 days before the end of the ruling president’s term.

Full article here

FUNDING: Latvian government approves 2019 budget draft

On Tuesday, 5 March, Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers approved a legislative draft for the state budget of 2019, as confirmed by Finance Ministry’s representatives.

2019 state consolidated budget’s revenue is planned at EUR 9.2 billion, whereas expenditures are planned at EUR 9.4 billion. Base budget’s planned revenue is EUR 6.4 billion, whereas expenditures are planned at EUR 6.8 billion. Revenue of the state special budget is planned at EUR 3 billion, whereas expenditures are planned at EUR 2.8 billion. The deficit of the 2019 general government budget is planned at 0.5% of GDP. GDP growth for 2019 is planned to be 3%.

Last year, members of the government continued reviewing state budget expenditures during talks with ministries. As a result, ministries prepared proposals to increase funding for their respectable industries. Focus is put on efficiency in use of state real estate properties and ICT industry’s optimization, as well as review of allocated funding. The result of total review of expenditures in 2019 is EUR 51.3 million. Of this amount, EUR 7.6 million will be diverted to the improvement of the general fiscal space, whereas EUR 43.7 million will be allocated for different priorities of the country’s priorities.

This year’s budget includes an additional amount of EUR 87.5 million, which will be allocated to increase teachers’ wages. EUR 8.9 million will be used to increase wages of judges and prosecutors, as well as EUR 4.8 million will be allocated to increase of wages of social care workers. EUR 41.3 million is planned to be allocated as support for retirement pensions for interior affairs and justice sector officers with special ranks.

EUR 7.2 million is planned to be allocated to finance implementation of recommendations from Moneyval.

Full article here

DECLINE: women are paid 10% smaller wages than men in the same jobs

Men in Latvia earn 10% than women in the same jobs, according to data from Paylab, which works in Latvia together with CV-Online database Algas.lv, studying long-term wage trends.

Comparison of wages is based on identical factors – the same jobs, workload, worker experience, education and skills.

The situation across the Baltic States is relatively similar – women are paid 11% less in Lithuania, 10% less in Latvia and 9% less than men in Estonia.

Analysis of wage discrepancy shows that one major factor is a person’s choice of profession and industry.

«Women still prefer jobs that allow balancing family and private life, which also affects wages and career options. However, we have to admit that employers often try promoting diversity at work by creating appropriate working conditions for women to provide them with equal career options and motivation to return to work after childcare leave,» says CV-Online Latvia marketing and communication manager Krista Roziņa.

Full article here

CHANGE?: Latvia’s environment minister may dismiss Riga’s mayor in three weeks

After looking at the work performed by Riga City Council and the answers provided to previously asked questions, Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce uncovered several violations of the law. With that, he does not discount the possibility of dismissing Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs in approximately three weeks, the minister said in an interview to LNT programme 900 seconds.

Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry is in the process of checking the work done by Riga City Council in accordance with legal procedures. Answers signed by Ušakovs show that the city council has committed violations of the law in the municipality, explains the minister.

The ministry has yet to receive more answers from Riga City Council. After receiving and going through answers provided so far, the ministry submitted more questions in regards to uncovered violations. Pūce says the evaluation process may conclude in three weeks.

Once the process is complete the minister will decide on whether or not Ušakovs should be dismissed.

Full article here

WORRY: Swedish authorities look into Swedbank complaint by anti-money laundering activist

Swedish law enforcement has been asked to investigate suspicion filed by British anti-corruption investor Bill Browder over alleged transactions to Swedbank from Danske Bank’s Estonian branch and Lithuanian UKIO Bank.

Reuters news agency reports that Browder’s complaint alleges that about USD 176 million (EUR 157) from Danske Bank’s Estonian branch and Lithuania’s UKIO Bank had been wired to Swedbank accounts.

The complaint expresses allegations that this links the Swedish bank to money laundering relating to a tax fraud exposed by Browder’s former lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian prison in 2009.

Browder filed the complaint against Swedbank with authorities including Swedish prosecutors and police, the finance ministry and the economic crime authority.

Full article here

DETAINED: Corruption watchdog detains another Rīgas satiksme official for bribery

Latvia’s Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has detained Honour to Serve Riga member, Rīgas karte boardmember and Rīgas satiksme official Aleksandrs Brandavs over suspicions of bribery.

On Tuesday, 6 March, the bureau commenced a criminal process against SIA Rīgas karte official for possible criminal acts – bribery and mediation in bribery.

Materials of the criminal case contain information regarding the handing of a bribe to a mediator to be passed to another official in order to secure decisions favourable to the person who gave the bribe.

One person has been detained in the criminal process. According to information from LETA, this person is Brandavs. He was detained on Wednesday, 6 March.

The investigation is currently in early stages. More detailed information will be provided by KNAB once it is clear it won’t impede the investigation.

The law permits detaining a person for up to 48 hours. Once this term is over, authorities can decide on extending it or applying a security measure. The most severe security measure is an arrest, which is decided on by the court.

Brandavs is a board member in SIA Rīgas karte, manager of Rīgas satiksme’s Electronic Transactions and Projects Office, as well as the true beneficiary in Rīgas mikroautobusu satiksme.

Full article here


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Privatization Agency: Latvian Railways chairman is baselessly speculating about privatization

«A lot of speculations and incorrect statements containing the word ‘privatization’ are coming from Latvian Railways (LDz) board chairman Edvīns Bērziņš. He is trying to divert attention in his corporate conflict away from the company board’s relations with shareholders,» BNN was told by Privatization Agency (PA) board chairman Vladimirs Loginovs.

BNN summary of the week: shadow over Latvia's economy; Kalnmeiers receives bashing

The week passed in Latvia under certain unpleasant news. A study concluded that in spite of Union of Green and Farmers minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola’s praised tax reform the grey economy proportion in Latvia has increased.

Court enforces 1 000 euros from Ušakovs for Riga City Council deputy

Riga City Vidzeme Suburb Court has declined suspended Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs plea against Riga City Council deputy Vilnis Ķirsis over supposedly offensive statements the latter made against the plaintiff.

Latvian minister proposes re-assessing prosecutor general’s professionalism

Latvia’s Justice Ministry has noticed signs that suggest Prosecutor General Ēriks Kalnmeiers is not fit to remain in his post, as there are suspicions regarding his reputation, Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns told journalists on 17 May.

Estonia’s Nordica ended 2018 with EUR 2 million in losses

Estonia’s national air carrier registered considerable losses in 2018, reaching EUR 2,3 million in unconsolidated losses.

U.S.-pardoned whistle-blower Manning sent back to prison

A United States grand jury has ordered back to confinement Chealsea Manning, the former American military intelligence analyst, who spent seven years in prison in a Wikileaks-related case before being released by the decision of former U.S.

International police effort dismantles GozNym gang of cyber criminals

An international criminal network that used GozNym malware in an attempt to steal an estimated USD 100 million from more than 41 000 victims, mostly businesses and their financial institutions, has been dismantled in a joint police operation.

Prediction: Latvia’s new concert hall will recover investments in 15 years

In the first 15 years after construction of Latvia’s new National Acoustic Concert Hall it will earn Latvia’s national economy a total of EUR 107.6 million, fully compensating investments and creating additional profits of EUR 17.6 million.

Poland fights child abuse with prison sentences up to 30 years

Polish legislators have extended prison terms for convicted paedophiles to a maximum 30 years. The Catholic country’s child abuse scandals have been underscored by a new documentary on such crimes by Polish priests.

Money intended for child protection used instead to pay bonuses to officials in Latvia

Welfare Ministry’s allocated state budget funding of EUR 619 000 was used, among other things, to pay bonuses to officials for obvious everyday tasks even though initially it was implied that employees of the ministry and State Child Protection Inspectorate (SCPI) would perform some specific tasks to prevent child and family abuse.

Meteorologists promise air temperature will soon reach +26° C in Latvia

On Friday, 17 May, there will be plenty of sun and clouds. Western regions may experience some rainfall. Wind will draw in from the east, reaching 13 m/sec in Kurzeme, as reported by Latvia’s State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Construction commences in Estonian-Latvian 3rd interconnection project

By raising the first supports of the new high-voltage Estonian-Latvian 3rd interconnection, Latvia’s Augstsprieguma tīkls (AST) has commenced the next step in the high-voltage power line project for a new 330 kV power line from Riga TEC-2 all the way to Kilingi-Nõmme substation in Estonia, as confirmed by AST.

Riga Tourism Development Bureau may have caused damages worth EUR 300 000

As a result of criminal activities Riga Tourism Development Bureau has caused damages worth no less than EUR 300 000, according to initial estimates.

Tribunal of European «Islamic State» fighters to be discussed in Sweden

Seeking an international tribunal of the fighters of the «Islamic State» terrorist group following its defeat in Syria, Sweden has invited other European countries to discuss ways to persecute fighters from Europe.

Latvia supports North Macedonia’s accession to NATO

On Thursday, 16 May, Latvia’s Saeima supported North Macedonia’s joining of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as confirmed by Saeima’s press-service.

Ventspils City Council stumbles and indirectly admits – Lembergs does breach his security measure

The suspended chairman of Ventspils City Council Aivars Lembergs breaches the court-sanctioned security measure – prohibition to perform duties as mayor – because he regularly represents the city council and provides his opinion to Ventspils City Council’s portal ventspils.lv, BNN has concluded after reviewing the ruling of Liepaja District Court.

Latvian airBaltic and Scandinavian SAS establish cooperation

Latvian airline airBaltic has concluded a cooperation agreement, known as a code-share agreement, with Scandinavian Airlines. Partnership between airBaltic and SAS will offer convenient connections between Latvia, Scandinavia and beyond, airBaltic representatives say.

Latvian parliament to ease post-mortem organ donation procedures

Residents in Latvia will be able to permit using their bodies or organs after their death by making a specific entry in the e-health system. This is provided by amendments approved by the Saeima in the final reading on 16 May to the law that governs the use of a dead person’s tissue and organs in medicine.

Vilnius prospects dim unless it clusters with Kaunas, says investment expert

In the eyes of mayor investors, Vilnius’ prospects remain dim if it does not agglomerate. An investment expert suggests that the Lithuanian capital should expand and merge to an extent with Kaunas, the country’s second-largest city.

Video: European Spitzenkandidaten debate key EU issues in Brussels

What do to the leading candidates of each political group of the European Parliament stand for? Watch their debate in Brussels.

Riga Tourism Development Bureau’s manager is released from police custody

Riga Tourism Development Bureau’s board chairperson Vita Jermoloviča has been released from State Police holding facility in Čiekurkalns, as news portal lsm.lv was told by Jermoloviča’s lawyer Raivo Klotiņš.

State Audit warns – situation with use of development funding critical in Latvia

A critical situation has emerged in Latvia in relation to planning and use of development funding, as concluded by State Audit in its annual report on correctness of institutions’ accounts for 2018.

Not OK. France’s Le Pen after Estonia visit asks to delete controversial selfie

Marine Le Pen, the founder of French right-wing National Rally party, has visited Estonia to meet with the Conservative People's Party of Estonia. Following the meeting, she has asked an Estonian MP to remove a joint photo showing a sign increasingly perceived as a white supremacist gesture.

Latvia's prime minister meets with Estonian colleague; discuss important topics

Latvia’s Prime minister Krišjānis Kariņš said during his meeting with his Estonian colleague Jüri Ratas on May 15 that the two countries that the two countries have very positive and friendly relations. It is important for Latvia and Estonia to implement regional energy and transport projects together, representatives of Latvia’s prime minister say.

Justice can wait; Latvia’s Saeima puts off vote on deputy’s criminal prosecution

On 15 May, Saeima’s Mandate, Ethics and Submissions Committee agreed to give deputies time to go through materials of the case and make up their minds on whether or not to permit criminal prosecution of Saeima deputy Atis Zakatistovs (KPV LV) during the 5 June meeting of the parliament.

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