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Friday 28.02.2020 | Name days: Skaidrīte, Justs, Skaidra

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

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUOn 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.

The first time the committee discussed this matter was 25 April, but decision-making was postponed because the prosecutor could not attend the meeting. The committee viewed this matter again 16 May and decided to give deputies time to study materials of the case, thereby postponing decision-making yet again. The committee wants the Saeima to view this matter 6 June.

Committee’s chairperson Janīna Kursīte-Pakule explains that after going through materials of the case and looking at it in a broader context together with previous cases, it was decided to permit deputies to study restricted access documents. The state prosecution has not voiced any objections or requests to review this matter quickly. Members of the committee voiced proposals to hold the vote right then and there, and then submit this matter to the next Saeima meeting. However, only one deputy supported this proposal, said Kursīte-Pakule.

When asked if it is right for Zakatistovs to participate in presidential elections in this situation, the politician said: ‘I do not think it would be right to accuse Zakatistovs or anyone else of committing any crime before a verdict is reached by a court of justice.’

The main portion of the discussion took place behind closed doors. Initially multiple parliamentarians asked several questions to prosecutor Māris Urbāns during the open portion of the meeting. However, many of the questions were related to the case of another Saeima deputy – Juris Jurašs. Parliamentarian and ex-Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) officer Juta Strīķe asked questions related to the terms of the case and if there are plans to carry out an investigation after raising charges. Urbāns said the main points of the case are clear, adding that it is now important to gather additional evidence. Strīķe also asked if Urbāns plans to go on vacation this summer. The prosecutor refused to answer the question, but asked if he has rights for a rest. Strīķe responded to this by saying that this means Urbāns will go on vacation while Jurašs’ and Zakatistovs’ cases stay in his office collecting dust.

She also asked if anyone is influencing Urbāns’ independence. The prosecutor said that he has not felt any pressure from the heads in the prosecutor’s office. He did admit, however, that there is psychological pressure. The prosecutor did not comment on this further.

Parliamentarian Linda Ozola noted that in the matter regarding Zakatistovs’ criminal case they cannot ignore the case against Jurašs, which has yet to make its way to a court of justice. Ozola stressed that in such cases it is necessary for cases to end up in courts as soon as possible. Urbāns countered this by saying the case is not being artificially delayed.

Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) had previously requested the prosecutor’s office to raise charges against Zakatistovs and businessman Viesturs Tamužs for fraud in large amount. The prosecutor’s office then turned to the Saeima with a request to permit Zakatistovs’ criminal prosecution. The Prosecutor General’s Office has already decided to prosecute Tamužs for fraud in large amount. Both Zakatistovs and Tamužs deny charges. Zakatistovs explained to journalists that accusations of fraud are unjustified because he had provided consultations to Eco Baltica Grupa regarding waste management matters in the European Union.

During a press conference on 14 May, Zakatistovs presented a compilation of documents for the period of time between 1 June 2016 and 31 May 2017 regarding consultation contracts between company Per Capita and Eco Baltia Grupa. Documents detailed number of specific contracts, as well as topics on which consultations were provided. For example, consultations were provided on European Commission’s position on waste management sector’s competition and regulatory affairs, internationally recognized waste management research quality assessments and requirements, as well as change management consultations regarding EU directives.

The Constitution of the Republic of Latvia states that it is not allowed to commence criminal prosecution of Saeima deputy without consent from the parliament itself. If law enforcement institutions ask the Saeima permission to commence criminal prosecution of one of its members, this matter is first viewed by the Mandates Committee, which then prepares a decision project the Saeima can then tackle.

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