Latvija in brief - 2007-11-14

  • 2007-11-14
The state police detained a former Terehova border crossing guard and a Ludza road police inspector on Nov. 6 on suspicion of having organized a system whereby trucks waiting in the long lines at the Russian border could pay a bribe to cut to the front of the line. The police detained five more people on Nov. 7 on suspicions that the two men involved in the Terehova scandal ordered them to burn down three summer homes in May 2006. Two leading anti corruption organizations also arrested 13 men, including the Mayor of Zilupe, Olegs Agafonovs, in October for bribery and abuse of authority in connection with the scandal. Police found about 800,000 euros in cash while searching the homes of the detainees.

The government endorsed a Defense Ministry plan on Nov. 13 which envisages a more than 50 percent troop increase in Afghanistan. The plan calls for troop levels in Afghanistan to reach 150 - 200 in 2008, up from only 95 this year. In addition to the increased troop levels, the plan calls for a donation of 1.5 million lats' (2.13 million euros) worth of weapons and ordinance. Moreover, the plan calls on other government ministries to provide material and technical assistance to the Afghan army. Meanwhile, the government decided to send Major Andris Berzins to the EU police mission in Afghanistan 's joining the two police officers who are currently stationed there. Berzins will act as an advisor to the criminal investigation department and will hold the position from November 20, 2007 until March 29, 2008.

Former Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks announced on Nov. 8 that he will leave the People's Party. "As of this moment I consider my work in this party finished. I am leaving [the party]," he said. Pabriks announced his decision immediately after the Parliamentary vote on three new ministers (see story Page 1). The announcement came three weeks after Pabriks resigned as foreign minister. Pabriks has repeatedly said that the People's Party needs radical changes to become a democratic, European party. Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis told the Latvian public television show "100. Pants" (100th article) on Nov. 8 that the party would be able to revive itself after the loss of Pabriks and the high-profile ousting of Municipal Affairs Minister Aigars Stokenbergs (see interview Page 14).

A local moonshine dealer in the north-eastern town of Gulbene was ordered to attend lectures on the dangers of alcoholism by a regional court on Nov. 8. The free, two hour lectures are organized by the State Probation Service and are aimed at helping chronic alcoholics cope with their problem. The 60-year-old man was given a suspended eight month jail term and eight months of probation after being convicted of repeatedly selling illegal alcohol from his home. The court indicated that non-attendance would be regarded as failure to comply with a court ruling and could lead to a revised sentence including real jail time.