Kalvitis: Bribes total "hundreds of thousands"

  • 2007-07-12
  • From wire reports
RIGA - Latvian Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis has denied he has any hard evidence at his disposal to confirm the existence of large bribes or "grants" from the influential Ventspils mayor Aivars Lembergs, but has confirmed that  the prosecutor's office possesses documents that may yet prove significant.

"Of course, if these documents can be considered authentic, which has yet to be proven, then those parties featuring in these documents have been heavily funded. We are not speaking about tens of thousands here, but about hundreds of thousands... Mainly these are political parties, not private individuals. But I have no grounds to speak about a list of "grant" recipients for the moment," the prime minister said in a July 11 interview with Latvian public radio.

He continued: "I have no names at my disposal to suspect somebody of being on the list of these 'grant' recipients... Of course, if it comes to the prosecutor's office obtaining evidence, these lawmakers will have to face criminal liability and prosecution."

The prime minister and chairman of the ruling People's Party could not deny that a number of his fellow party members have been summoned to the prosecutor's office for questioning. Kalvitis said he has not yet been invited to the office himself.

"No, I have not been summoned... There is a wide range of veteran politicians who have been summoned," the prime minister explained, adding that Edmunds Krastins, Karlis Leiskalns, Raimonds Pauls and Dzintars Abikis are among those questioned by the law enforcement authorities.

After Ventspils mayor Aivars Lembergs was arrested in connection with suspected large-scale corruption among Ventspils officials and business executives, rumors spread that the prosecutor's office possesses a 'hitlist' of politicians who have been receiving money from Lembergs. The list is thought to include a number of prominent current MPs, though its existence and contents have never been officially confirmed.

Latvia's former president Vaira Vike-Freiberga said in her last speech to Parliament on June 21 that the "sword of Damocles is already suspended over some heads" and called on the prosecutor's office to step up investigation work and inform the public about its findings before the next general elections.