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Friday 18.01.2019 | Name days: Antis, Antons

«Osinovskis’ million» case: Elksniņš requested money «for KNAB»

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUSeveral years ago there was a scandal caused by the announcement made by the now former investigator of Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) and now Saeima deputy Juris Jurašs that he was offered a two million euros bribe in the LDz corruption case. More specifically – the bribe was offered to him to ensure Estonian millionaire Oļegs Osinovskis got a mild punishment.

Jurašs also claimed that the previous head of KNAB – Jaroslavs Streļčenoks – had ignored his report on this. A criminal process was finally initiated one and a half years later. However, it was closed last autumn, as reported by De Facto.

LTV programme De Facto presented the audience with the investigator’s report on closing the case. The report mentions that Osinovskis had confirmed in a conversation with KNAB officers that he had, in fact, held talks with Harmony politician Andrejs Elksniņš about money.

The so-called Osinovskis’ million criminal case was launched at Brālis Rīgā pub in Riga, Terbatas Street on 30 September 2015. KNAB office was originally located nearby. That day, KNAB officer Jurašs was meeting with his old acquaintance Jānis Dambītis, the report mentions.

Jurašs later testified the following about meeting his old acquaintance from their time studying at the Police Academy:

Dambītis told him that a certain topic needed discussing. He did so because his former classmates – lawyers Artis Stucka and Māris Grudulis – had insisted and pleaded with him to discuss it with Jurašs. Dambītis told him about a conversation that took place in September. During this conversation the two aforementioned lawyers had asked to pass on to Jurašs news that Harmony deputy Andrejs Elksniņš, who was responsible for organizing Osinovskis’ defence in LDz criminal process, was offering Jurašs a one million euros bribe. The goal was making sure Osinovskis would avoid criminal liability or have his case classified as influence trading, rather than bribery, De Facto reports.

The programme notes that on the next day after this conversation Jurašs submitted a secret report to then the chief of KNAB Streļčenoks regarding the bribe. However, the criminal process on this was launched one and a half years later – when Streļčenoks was no longer in charge of KNAB and Jurašs was no longer employed there. Shortly before the bureau’s reorganization, because of which he lost his post, Jurašs publicly announced having received the bribe offer. He also criticized Streļčenoks for his inaction. Because of this, Jurašs is also a suspect in a case launched by Security Police on intentional disclosure of official secret.

All of the people mentioned in his testimony denied any relation to the bribery. Dambītis, who was the only suspect in the case, mentioned in his testimony that his meeting with Jurašs was nothing out of the ordinary, and that his goal was discussing developments in Riga, not offer him a bribe. He said as much in a telephone conversation with De Facto.

«Just because we mentioned a million does not mean I offered anything on behalf of someone else. It is… it is not even an interpretation. I do apologize if some shamelessness allows it to be turned in this light. […] Yes, we did meet and discuss things. I did not know if he was aware or not, but I did mention the talk of the town. It was just so that he would notice it,» said the former finance minister’s advisor Dambītis about his talk with Jurašs.

The latter claims he had to react to the bribe offer – the roles of all people involved in this should have been explained to the investigation: «I have no doubts in my mind that there were people who wanted to accept the money from Osinovskis. As to what they would do – hand over or accept – this was the question the investigation should have resolved.»

Stucka, who was then the advisor to Transport Minister Uldis Augulis and the standing member of the board of Riga Freeport, told De Facto in a text message that he refuses to «comment this rubbish». Grudulis, who is currently an advisor to Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis, mentioned that he said all he had to say on this topic in his testimony to KNAB.

KNAB investigator noticed more credibility in Jurašs’ testimony – in the portion regarding Elksniņš’s possible role. The reason – the case includes a fragment from a conversation recorded between Jurašs and Osinovskis in March 2016. In it, the two discussed Elksniņš, among other topics, De Facto reports.

BNN provides an excerpt from a fragment of their conversation:

30 March 2016

J.Jurašs: «For, for, for me… But did he [A.Elksniņš] ask money? Did he?»

O.Osinovskis: «For KNAB.»

J.Jurašs: «One million.»

O.Osinovskis: «For KNAB.»

J.Jurašs: «Well, a million. There was this topic, no?»

O.Osinovskis: «There was.»

J.Jurašs: «Right. Was it your initiative? Was it his initiative? Did he say KNAB requests it, or did he say it should be given to KNAB to resolve this? Which is it?»

O.Osinovskis: «Well, if he had come to me 25 times to all places around the world – did I ask or did he?»

J.Jurašs: «[sighs] You see, if you’d start cooperating for real and he’d have been put in prison for extorting a bribe, it would have been the best possible bonus you could receive! […] He used you. He double-crossed you. He asked the money from you, knowing you are a wealthy, let’s say, client.»

De Facto adds that later on Osinovskis told KNAB during his interrogation that Elksniņš had never requested any money for Jurašs or any other official. He said he had consulted with Elksniņš only as a lawyer. It was following Elksniņš’s initiative that several meetings were held in Tallinn, Pernava, Moscow and Croatia, during which Saeima deputy positioned himself as a knowledgeable lawyer capable of defending Osinovskis in the criminal case. Osinovskis’ entire cooperation with KNAB was associated with his possible assistance in uncovering a more serious crime. De Facto is aware that it was the information provided by Osinovskis that prompted KNAB to commence a criminal process against Māris Martinsons in 2016. This criminal process was closed shortly after.

In a telephone conversation with De Facto, Osinovskis said he was in Singapore at the time and asked questions to be sent to him in writing. Later, however, his lawyer said that his client does not wish to comment this situation.

As for Elksniņš, he categorically denies what Jurašs and Osinovskis have said. He claims that Osinovskis had turned to him after LDz case to report on systemic corruption cases in Latvia.

«It is very hard for me to comment the nonsense from one accused and former KNAB officer who has not investigated any crimes in years,’ says Elksniņš. ‘Our cooperation [with Osinovskis], as far as I can tell, ended around September 2015. I think it was the last time we met. It’s because someone started pulling law enforcement institutions by their nose.»

Elksniņš claims Osinovskis had told him about several high-rank officials, including ministers, who had requested bribes from him. He also said provision of assistance was only logical for Harmony as an opposition party. Elksniņš claims he had not committed any illegalities.

Jurašs, on the other hand, got a different impression regarding the credibility of Osinovskis’ testimony about Elksniņš: «Most definitely! No one ready to objectively assess this information has any doubts. Absolutely! […] With this he wanted to say that for a long period of time this money was being requested from him in favour of someone else.»

De Facto notes that KNAB investigator had concluded that no evidence was found to support the claim regarding a bribe being offered to Jurašs. No information was acquired about the possible source of money used for the bribe. What Osinovskis mentioned in his response – that Elksniņš had requested money ‘for KNAB’, offers no room for unambiguous conclusions: that the bribe was intended for Jurašs, said the investigator. After more than one and half years’ worth of investigating, KNAB closed the criminal process.

It is likely Estonia’s wealthiest person – Osinovskis – had failed to reach any deals with KNAB or the prosecutor’s office. At the end of February, Vidzeme District Court in Limbaži will continue viewing the criminal case in which Osinovskis is accused of giving a bribe worth half a million euros and the now former chief of LDz – Uģis Magonis – is accused of accepting said bribe, De Facto reports.

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