Latvian corruption watchdog terminates criminal procedure involving Saeima deputies

Latvia’s Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) did not find signs of bribery in the actions of Saeima deputies Viktors Valainis and Ralfs Nemiro and decided to terminate the criminal procedure involving the two.
KNAB reports previously receiving a request from a deputy of Dobele municipality council. According to this deputy, on 9 September while in the parliament a group of Saeima deputies offered him a bribe in the form of the seat of the vice-chairman of Dobele municipal council in exchange for using his official position and voting together with other deputies in the council in favour of removal of then the chairman of Dobele municipal council. portal previously reported that Dobele municipal council deputy Māris Feldmanis was promised the seat of the council’s vice-chairman in a conversation in the Saeima, specifically the room of the Union of Greens and Farmers faction of the parliament.
After this conversation there a change of power in Dobele – then the chairman of the council Edgars Gaigalis was removed from his post and Ivars Gorskis was elected the new chairman. Feldmanis, whose vote was decisive in both cases, was given the seat of vice-chairman. It is worth mentioning, however, that he left this post soon after.
On 17 September KNAB commenced a criminal procedure to check if there was bribery committed and whether or not it was related to the change of council chairmen in Dobele.
Evidence acquired in the pre-trial investigation shows that the offer of a new position in the municipal council is not to be considered a form of personal benefit, but rather part of the coalition formation process in Dobele, KNAB explains.
The offer provided for continued cooperation as part of the coalition until the end of the municipal council’s term. It also provided the opportunity for wider exercising of his power as a deputy elected to the municipal council, notes KNAB.
Additionally, acquired evidence also shows the seat of the council’s vice-chairman was neither bundled with a cash offer, nor did it come with an offer to be paid money without the requirement to perform any actual duties.
Considering the aforementioned, investigators concluded the invitation for the deputy to vote a certain way in exchange for support in this deputy’s approval as vice-chairman of the municipal council is to be considered legal in the context of Law on Prevention of Conflict of Interest in Activities of Public Officials. Offering and requesting political posts without breaching the law is an integral part of the political coalition formation process.
After evaluating acquired evidence, KNAB and the Office of the Prosecutor General concluded that in this particular case the offered political post in the context of the Criminal Law is not to be considered a bribe. This is the reason why the criminal procedure was terminated.
Valainis and Nemiro were presented with a status – a person against whom criminal proceedings have been initiated.
KNAB vice-chief for investigation affairs Ineta Cīrule notes that the most decisive factor in corruption prevention is the active involvement of society. This includes reporting suspicious and possibly corruption-related activities. KNAB values every report received from residents and the trust people put in the institution and its duties because it reinforces people’s trust in KNAB and its ability to determine if there are signs of corruption in reported activities.
Although law enforcers found no signs of an act of corruption, this case did help define additional criteria to help differentiate legal offers of postings from bribe offers. This will help make future investigations of similar cases easier, notes prosecutor of the Office of the Prosecutor General Office for Corruption Prevention Coordination Office Māris Urbāns.