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Monday 20.05.2019 | Name days: Venta, Salvis, Selva

Ex-KNAB chief’s criminal case develops – lawyer and ex-KNAB worker detained

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULatvian police suspect ex-Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau’s chief Normunds Vilnītis, ex-KNAB worker Andrejs Vasiļevičs and lawyer Ieva Ramiņa of taking bribes, TV3 programme Nekā personīga.

According to TV3, some Poland-based company had paid Vilnītis’ owned firm EUR 135,000 for assistance in acquiring a transaction-processing institution’s license. It never got the license in the end, however. Latvia’s Finance and Capital Market Commission refused providing a license. The money provided by the Polish company, however, was spent by Vilnītis’ firm. With that, this criminal case could end for the former chief of Latvia’s corruption combating bureau could potentially end not only with criminal charges of bribery but also will the loss of detective license, the programme reports, adding, however, that there are still many facts unclear in this case.

Police have yet to determine who in FCMC was supposed to receive the bribe. It also remains unclear why this case was not handed to KNAB for investigation.

Normunds Vilnītis was the head of KNAB ten years ago. He was picked from seventeen contenders. However, similar to his predecessors, Vilnītis did not remain in his seat for the entire term. The committee formed by Prosecutor General Ēriks Kalnmeiers found out that Vilnītis hired people with unclear past and had also breached secrecy. There were also suspicions that he allowed unsanctioned investigations about people he was interested in, the programme reminds.

The Saeima dismissed Vilnītis in summer 2011. Three years later he founded his own detective agency.

Nekā personīga has unofficial information that Vilnītis may have had a hand in settling the interests of Norvik bank buyer Grigorijs Guseļņikovs in Latvia, which, however, resulted in a conflict between the two. Vilnītis was also spotted tailing a Saeima deputy who was then a member of the National Security Committee.

Three years ago, Polish GPN Data EUROPE bought a company in Latvia with intention of receiving a payment processing company’s license. This license would allow it to provide services in all of EU. Such companies in Latvia have to undergo a very strict and demanding evaluation procedure in FCMC, the programme reports.

«If a company is registered, it can work only here in Latvia. Once a license is provided, however, it is allowed to work in Latvia and the EU. It is the choice of every company – if they want a license. Yes, GPN Data Latvia did express a request for a license,» as confirmed by FCMC board member Gvido Romeiko.

The programme notes there were some difficulties with the evaluation process. The company was expected to reveal its true beneficiary, money origin and present free funds. The company failed to comply with FCMC’s requirements.

GPN Data Latvia then turned to Vilnītis for help. In 2016 his firm was transferred EUR 135,000. Police believe the Polish company gave money so that Vilnītis would bribe FCMC officials, TV3 programme reports. Parties involved in this case deny this. Vilnītis was convinced to participate in this scheme by his once colleague from KNAB Andrejs Vasiļevičs – he was a GPN Data Latvia employee at the time.

When asked by NP what the company wanted from Vilnītis when in exchange for the aforementioned sum of money, Andrejs Vasiļevičs said – legal assistance. He also refused to comment on the matter further.

NP reports that Vilnītis also involved sworn attorney Ieva Ramiņa in this. The reason is that many years ago the now FCMC Council Chairman Pēters Putniņš practiced law in her office. FCMC has confirmed that Ramiņa had come for talks, especially considering the presence of a lawyer is desirable during license issue procedures. Talks lasted several months but without the outcome the Polish company wanted.

Romeiko notes: «It’s a natural process: document exchange, phone calls, meetings, e-mail exchange.» He says the last time he met with Ramiņa was approximately two years ago. He denies there being any illegalities committed during that meeting. Romeiko says he did not meet with Vilnītis.

NP continues – the Polish company paid the money, but all for nothing, as Vilnītis had spent the EUR 135,000 given to him. GPN did not get its license in the end. This resulted in internal problems with the Polish management – they voted in favour of dismissal of board member Vladimirs Remi and then sued him. Remi blamed everyone else. It is likely that the Economic Crimes Prevention Office commenced the criminal process on bribery, money laundering and bribe acceptance following a request from Remi.

Chief of Criminal Police Andrejs Grišins refrained from commenting on why the case was entrusted to Economic Crimes Prevention Office and not KNAB: «We investigate cases in which we have leads. It is a matter of our competence.»

When asked about the case, ex-KNAB chief and owner of SIA Information Agency Normunds Vilnītis told journalists should direct their questions at Alla Ignatjeva. The term has ended for his detective’s certificate and Vilnītis has not extended it. However, the license that allows his company to perform such services remains in force. The law states that if Vilnītis is presented with criminal charges, his Information Agency will lose its license.

Lawyer Ieva Ramiņa, meanwhile, has asked the Bar Council to suspend her ability to practice law, which the council has done.

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