• 2001-02-01
The Baltic Times has exposed (albeit unintentionally) the biggest scandal to hit Latvia so far this year. It was the first to publish the absurd story of Eizens Cepurnieks, the now former state trustee of the Latvian Shipping Company, who has also been dropped as mayoral candidate for one of Latvia's largest cities.

Can you imagine the entire elite of the Fatherland and Freedom party - party chairman, parliamentary speaker, the mayor of the capital and the party's unofficial financier - meeting with their fiercest rival to hear his proposal of a $1 million bribe to support his favorite bidder (as yet unnamed) for a multi-million company which happens to have a creamy $70 million cash reserve? Cepurnieks apparently could.

Now he, of course, rejects ever saying anything like this to anyone. However, Transparency International's Latvian branch, Delna, the other protagonist in this story, seems far more trustworthy. There is absolutely no reason why Delna's chairwoman would want to compromise her organization in the course of such an important process as the monitoring of the privatization of one of the state's largest companies, just after the ruling parties grudgingly agreed to let her organization in.

Now those mentioned in the controversy naturally feel insulted and are planning to turn to law enforcement institutions in an effort to defend their honor.

A week before the scandal broke, Cepurnieks told the press that several high-ranking officials had been offered up to $1 million for tampering with the company's privatization process. The Latvian media has been chewing this information over for a week, spreading the message that everything is corrupt in every corner of this country.

At that stage nobody felt insulted, because nobody was mentioned directly. Now, when it is clearly visible how ridiculous these allegations are, there is of course good reason to feel offended.

But for one person a tragic tale of past slanders is now being repeated as farce. Former Prime Minister Andris Skele, who was named by the notorious Social Democrat MP Janis Adamsons as being involved in the infamous pedophilia scandal last year, has now decided to take his revenge.

Maybe he hopes to kill two birds with one stone - to get rid of Cepurnieks and Delna, whose involvement in the privatization monitoring no one really wants. But he should remember that criticisms of Delna's chairwoman don't mean the organization itself is compromised. Transparency International remains a force to be reckoned with.