Finance police suspended

  • 2006-09-27
  • By Elizabeth Celms
RIGA - The State Revenue Service has suspended four Finance Police officers from their posts pending an internal investigation into whether the officials leaked confidential information during the recent phone-tapping scandal. The Prosecutor General's Office, the Corruption Prevention and Combatting Bureau (KNAB) and other law enforcement agencies have formed an investigation team to probe whether the four officers are rightly accused of wire-tapping Latvian Television (LTV) journalist Ilze Jaunalksne's private phone conversations and releasing the tapes to the media.

"The Finance Police requested [Jaunalksne's] phone number from the Supreme Court, which - knowingly or not - gave them permission," Lolita Cigane, Providus Centre for Public Policy analyst, told The Baltic Times. "The Constitution Protection Bureau, which is something like America's FBI, does the recording, but the Finance Police are responsible for what happens with those tapes."
On Sept. 20, the chief of the Finance Police announced that the State Revenue Service was ready to offer all information at their disposal to the Prosecutor General's Office.

Although investigators have already questioned the suspended officers, all information remains confidential.
The scandal erupted on Sept. 12 when the daily newspaper Neatkariga published excerpts of Jaunalksne's private mobile phone conversations. The Prosecutor's Office launched a criminal investigation into the wiretapping the next day.
It was soon revealed that the Finance Police, who had requested the phone tap, had leaked the information. In defense, the State Revenue Service passed the blame to Supreme Court Judge Marija Goldsmite, who had granted the Finance Police permission to tap Jaunalksne's phone.

Although the Supreme Court said it was too early to launch proceedings against Judge Marija Goldsmite on Sept. 12, she was suspended from her post for the duration of the investigation, which will depend on the results of a parallel probe by the Prosecutor General's Office.
Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis decried the crisis on national television, saying that "Latvia can no longer feel safe in an era of mobile phones."

The PM went on to blame Latvia's anti-corruption bureau for the scandal.
"The responsibility goes to KNAB for letting the majority of these phone conversations get tapped and disseminated," Kalvitis told LNT journalists on the morning news program "900 Sekundes."
Yet, KNAB chief Aleksejs Loskutovs asserts that his office had no part in the scandal.
On Sept. 19, Jaunalksne took matters into her own hands, demanding 300,000 lats (426,863 euros) in compensation from the state for moral damages.

"It was clear that those conversations were nothing more than general journalistic work," Cigane said. "Yet they were published in a way that suggested possible criminal offenses."
But Administrative Court Judge Irina Kalinina rejected Jaunalksne's statement, as she had disputed operations carried out by the State Revenue Service's Finance Police within the framework of a criminal case.
Kalinina added that the LTV journalist's request for moral compensation could not be adjudicated through an administrative process.

Jaunalksne, who has 10 days to appeal the court's decision, told the press that she would first research the court's rejection before making this decision.
The journalist's statement was directed specifically against the State of Latvia, the State Revenue Service and its structural unit 's the Finance Police.
Jaunalksne told journalists that the Republic of Latvia had neglected its duties by allowing state secret information to be publicized, and by failing to protect the confidentiality of her private conversations.