Latvian corruption watchdog requests criminal prosecution of former LDz board members

On Monday, 3 January, Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) requested the office of the prosecutor to commence criminal prosecution of four ex-Latvijas dzelzceļš (LDz) board members for possible abuse of power and causing severe consequences – losses worth EUR 1.5 million to the company, as reported by KNAB.
Evidence acquired by KNAB in the pre-trial investigation indicate the former LDz officials accomplished the foundation of a new executive institution in order to secure bigger wages and bonus pay for performing duties for which they were already paid money.
As it is known, the investigation is linked to the period of time when Edvīns Bērziņš was chairman of the board of LDz. At the time LDz had composed a Council of Presidents, which the Constitutional Court later declared an illegal institution. However, this council was not liquidated afterwards.
According to regulations that governed the functions of this council, the heads of LDz at the time were able to pay themselves large bonus pay amounts. In 2019, however, those managers were terminated. According to the income declarations submitted to the State Revenue Service, following his termination, Bērziņš was paid EUR 250 000 compensation and board member Aivars Strakšas was paid EUR 200 000.
At the start of 2020 Latvian Minister of Transport Tālis Linkaits submitted a request to the Office of the Prosecutor General, which then commenced a criminal procedure. The pre-trial investigation was entrusted to KNAB. Linkaits said in a previous interview to public news portal that the Ministry of Transport and law enforcement institutions raised this issue over the compensation amounts paid to Bērziņš and Strakšas.
The pre-trial investigation determined that the former officials may have been abusing their official power between 1 January 2013 and 18 August 2019 for personal gain and had illegally acquired additional income for the same duties they were already performing as part of their posts in LDz.
Over the course of nearly six years the illegal criminal activities performed by LDz officials caused damages worth EUR 1 553 896.83 to the company.
Now Riga Court District Prosecutor’s Office will need to decide on prosecution.