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Latvian Justice Minister: Court of Economic Cases would tear up crippling schemes

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Latvian Minister of Justice Jānis Bordāns

«When the strength of the Union of Farmers and Greens was in the Latvian government and people backed by it held senior posts, Latvia ended up with a disputed court system and long criminal processes. Once this party lost its place in politics, the posts of the persons supported by it immediately started to become unsteady,» Latvian Minister of Justice Jānis Bordāns said in an interview with BNN. According to him, there is no surprise that certain people are not satisfied with changes in the country that are needed very much.

«Those, who oppose it, just want to doom us to life in poverty»

Latvian Prosecutor General Ēriks Kalnmeiers, judge of the Riga Regional Court Juris Stukāns and Supreme Court chairman Ivars Bičkovičs – some of those, who do not favour Bordāns’ idea of creating a Court of Economic Cases. To the mind of the minister, the plan is not supported as it threatens the current posts of numerous people, where they have «settled in cosily».

«The opponents of the plan realise that there will be torn up the schemes, which have been operated for decades, as to how to achieve the specific, necessary verdict and how to decisively damage the case just before going to court. Such schemers, there aren’t many of them, but they have a high profile and are able to ensure deals on large sums to influential people,» Bordāns believes.

According to the Justice Minister, a Court of Economic Cases is one of the priority tasks in Latvia. Namely, it would be a court specialising in trying commercial disputes, financial and economic crime cases. Bordāns claims that in this court, there would work judges and prosecutors, who are professionals in their area and who do not have a dubious reputation.

In the public domain, the minister’s plan has been met with both criticism and praise. The Latvian Justice minister notes: «The idea is supported by the Foreign Investors’ Council in Latvia and entrepreneurs – those facing the problem. It is not backed by people, who have this far administered the court system and court policy».

«Mr Stukāns is just one of those, who do not like the idea. It mostly lacks the support of the heads of the highest-level courts, for example, from the senate. There are numerous judges and heads of court, who agree that a Court of Economic Cases is necessary. Only they are not such high-profile officials as, for example, Mr Bičkovičs and other members of the Council for the Judiciary. Kalnmeiers, he does not support the idea either.»

Speaking about the concern that has been expressed that this new court would mean unnecessary additional spending, Bordāns emphasises that these are speculations and the wish of certain people to remain in their favourable positions. «The creation of such a court would not cause significant additional spending to the state. It is possible to find judges. They would need working space, which we have. We have staff units, so that is no additional spending. That’s a make-believe [problem]

As to the efficiency of this court in Latvia, the minister explains: «The circulation of economic activity would commence. Every country having business, economic and financial centres, starts with putting the court system in order and making it efficient. Those, who oppose it, simply want to doom us to life in poverty».

«Because of Kalnmeiers, we are embroiled in international scandals»

The announcement by Bordāns that he had no confidence in the current Latvian Prosecutor General Ēriks Kalnmeiers echoed loudly both in the public and the Saeima. In the Latvian parliament, there have been collected the necessary 34 signatures of the members of parliament to initiate the suggested review the suitability of Kalnmeiers to his post.

«Kalnmeiers holding the post for almost a decade has resulted in Latvia being on the black list of Moneyval. I think that in any country this would have caused a scandal of some scale and raised the issue of whether the head of the Office of the Prosecutor General is suitable to hold his position. In addition, there have been the Rīdzene talks and «the work» by a Saeima investigative committee with them. All these scandals end up suggesting that the reputation of the Office of the Prosecutor General is dubious», comments Bordāns.

Likewise, the notes: «Speaking about recent events, just recently there was a report from the State Audit Office, where two loud facts were mentioned. First, in the Office of the Prosecutor General, there was inefficient use of large funding spent on repair works that were in breach of the law. Second, long-time bonuses have been paid to the staff of the prosecutor’s office, which was described by the State Audit Office as a violation. Concerning such cases, for example, the Office of the Prosecutor General, has itself launched criminal cases against other persons.»

The minister also says that there is food for thought in, why interviews with Kalnmeiers regularly appear in the «necessary moments» in media controlled by politician and long-time crime defendant Aivars Lembergs. «It is very evident – everyone can see for themselves. Questions and answers that are published are very targeted».

As the minister evaluates, Kalnmeiers calling the decision by Bordāns political and voicing fears it could draw international criticism, showed: «It is the work of Kalnmeiers that has drawn Latvia in international scandals – both with money laundering and damaged criminal cases, where bribery issues are persecuted. Latvia has already been pulled into a series of global and European scandals and the reason is directly linked to the work of Kalnmeiers. Thus, it is really because of Kalnmeiers that we are in international scandals. And my efforts are directed toward us solving the current situations and showing that Latvia is able to deal with such problems».

Bordāns does not deny that it would be a difficult task for Latvia to find a chairman of the Office of the Prosecutor General. He says that one of the problems visible in Latvia is that to select good staff, people are chosen, who are appointed to high positions not because of professional motives, but because of selfish interests.

«Consequently, strong candidates often fail to apply. For this reason, a similar situation could be characteristic to the prosecutor’s office,» says Bordāns. The Latvian Minister of Justice, however, explained that among layers, prosecutors and judges, there can be found people, who would take up this position because of professional motives.

According to Bordāns, the possible candidates have been discussed, yet he does not want to give names, believing that it was too early to discuss them publicly. The minister highlights that for this position, it is possible to find a person the public can trust and who would also have a clean reputation.


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