Scandal at Terehova border checkpoint. Border guards hid bribes in uniform shoulder pieces and lockers

The state border guards arrested at Latvia’s Terehova border checkpoint this spring hid the bribes they received under shoulder pieces of their uniforms and in lockers, as journalists were told by prosecutors Džena Andersone and Kaspars Andruškins on Wednesday, 8 December.
Bribery took place nearly every day for five months. The amounts border guards accepted sometimes were as low as a couple of euros.
Investigators filmed how border guards hid their bribes using hidden video cameras. Footage from those cameras was presented to journalists.
Prosecutors did not mention the exact amount border guards had received in bribes. Andruškins, however, did say that based on footage from video cameras ‘although at least one five euros bank note can be seen, the total amount should be multiplied by 20’.
Prosecutors did not comment if bribers could be prosecuted. The head of Latvian State Revenue Service (VID) Internal Security Office Aigars Prusaks said he will not comment on any specific criminal procedures. However, the Criminal Law does provide for the relief of criminal liability in bribery cases if the bribe was enforced on a person and if the act of bribery was voluntarily reported and persons involved actively cooperated with the investigation.
Bribes received from truckers were hidden in uniforms: in specially sewn in pockets and under shoulder pieces. Money was also hidden in service flash lights.
Hidden compartments were set up in the locker room of the border control checkpoint. One shift left money in service caps in the locker room and the other shift hid money in a special hiding place behind one of the lockers. This hiding spot was attached to the back of the locker with a magnet.
Andruškins said border guards acted like magicians to hide bribes from prying eyes. This behaviour indicated «a sense of impunity» from border guards.
Bribes were accepted because it was something of a tradition: looking the other way whenever some violation is committed and to speed up border checkpoint processing.
Prusaks told journalists that to battle corruption, preventive measures are important. This is why VID has commenced improving the internal control system. If the institution does not look for and uncover cases of corruption, the full extent of the problem may not become apparent.
«It is important to admit problems and combat them. We are not at the start of this path, but we still have a lot to do here to reduce the problem. We need involvement of our society to reduce their tolerance towards such violations,» said Prusaks, adding that those detained are not only bribe takers but also bribe givers.
As previously reported, 29 officials were detained at Terehova border checkpoint. 21 of them were declared suspects in bribery cases. Criminal procedures against eight border guards were terminated due to lack of evidence.
Four cases were submitted to the Court of Economic Affairs. Criminal case against one border guard was terminated because the accused passed away.
The prosecution has made deals with five accused on guilt acceptance and penalties. Criminal cases against the remaining 15 border guards have been submitted to court.
The border control checkpoint in Terehova on the Latvian-Russian border is known for a number of bribery scandals. Officials from this checkpoint were detained in the past for different violations.