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Wednesday 29.01.2020 | Name days: Valērijs, Aivars

Exclusive | Latvian MP: Top justice figures, Bičkovičs and Kalnmeiers, working like this in private sector, would be sacked long ago

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Latvian MP Gatis Eglītis, the head of the Saeima Financial Sector Supervision Subcommittee

The Moneyval report has told us not only that Latvia is unable to deal with financial crimes, but also that long court cases are under scrutiny. It is about the scale of money laundering – branding us a major power of money laundering. The expert committee also has questions: where are the guilty ones and where are the sentencing rulings? «The same Lembergs’ case; believe me, Moneyval is observing carefully, how it’s going forward,» MP Gatis Eglītis (NCP), the head of the Financial Sector Supervision Committee of Saeima Budget and Finance (Taxation), said in an interview with the BNN.

Weak part – Prosecutor General’s Office

The risk of Latvia being placed in the «grey list» of Moneyval would, Eglītis believes, be reduced, if Latvia would show to its international partners that the «ice has been broken» – changes have taken place in the court system.

«We live in a country, where illegalities had been permitted for a long time and perhaps are still permitted. Unfortunately, our law enforcement bodies are unable to deal with this, as is indicated by long court proceedings. The same [suspended Mayor of port city Ventspils – BNN] Aivars Lembergs, who is being tried in the first instance for a long time».

«The court not being able to determine over a period of ten years – guilty or not guilty – it is an awful use of resources. We pay for court proceedings lasting for ten years and that includes costs on lawyers, prosecutors and court rooms as well. Definitely, there are underlaying money laundering crimes. And that is what Moneyval blames us for – Latvia is unable to deal with money laundering crimes. Not only in cross-border, non-resident relations, but also internally – the Lembergs’ case, Māris Sprūds, Vladimirs Vaškevičs. All these long, long court proceedings. We cannot arrive at a verdict».

In the view of Eglītis (New Conservative Party (NCP)), a court of economic cases, if correctly implemented, would be an effective instrument to deal with large-scale corruption cases and financial crimes, which has not been done this far. The legislator noted that 20 expert judges would work in the economic cases’ court. «I know that Americans want to help us train them».

«The New Conservative Party has noticed that the absolutely weak part of the Latvian justice system is the Prosecutor General’s Office. There three main stages – investigation, the Prosecutor General’s Office and the court. If one piece falls out of the puzzle then a case either doesn’t reach the court, or if it does, it reaches the court in poor quality. The third possibility – a case is not upheld properly in the court.»

«They have been simply put there to be ineffective»

Although, Eglītis believes, improvements have begun in the justice system over the recent years, «the mess» in the prosecution office is still too large. «Someone has to be guilty, there has to be a court verdict, and international institutions expect that from us».

Latvian Prosecutor General Ēriks Kalnmeiers and head of the Latvian Supreme Court Ivars Bičkovičs are the two main people, who have long been responsible for the Latvian justice system. Their task is to ensure it is working fairly, transparently and effectively, notes the conservative MP. «Yet they absolutely don’t do their job. In the private sector, they would have been sacked long ago. They have been simply put there to be ineffective».

«If someone would be punished and put in prison for money laundering, others would take it seriously – people are punished for crimes after all», the Latvian legislator says.

He also underlines that the problem with the long court proceedings is: people, who are powerful and important in politics, are involved in them. «I think, there is a correlation there. The accused in court have a backing on the political level. Perhaps, the Prosecutor General’s Office is afraid, or has been afraid until now, to make decisions, because it knows that that [it] can receive a blow on the political level».

That is why, according to Eglītis, May 2020, when the term in office of the current Latvian Prosecutor General expires, will be of special importance to Latvia for changes to occur. «The has to be an honest, trustworthy, competent person in the position».

In addition, MP Eglītis believes that the Latvian model of the Prosecutor General being voted for should be changed and made similar to the Finnish model, where the Prosecutor General is recommended by the State President. «Let the President recommend [a candidate]. Latvia has a very competent, clever President in justice affairs – such, who we have for the first time. The Saeima would then evaluate, who has been recommended by the President».

Leave a reply

  1. LH says:

    The grey list is the only place for LV as corruption and money laundering is so embedded.. The legal system and procedures only help to facilitate all of it. Sad but the reality

  2. Zerry says:

    Excellent article. I would say one additional weak point is a State Police. At leadt outside of Riga the level of investigation is sometimes very miserable. Maybe it is lack of skilled persons or lack of interest of performing their work.

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