RIGA - A police investigation into Edgars Gulbis, a former presidential guard suspected of having participated in a plot to kill a customs official, has uncovered a number of aspects of the officer's disagreeable past that, had they been properly uncovered during a background check, should have prevented him from joining the service.
News of the officer's shady background prompted President Valdis Zatlers to call on the Constitution Protection Bureau to explain how Gulbis could have been allowed in the security services. Zatlers, who was elected president in June, even met with Gulbis.
"I've met with Gulbis, and we have a photograph in which Gulbis is showing me equipment... This is only because he was with the security service, and I trusted him. But responsibility for this trust lies with the Constitution Protection Bureau," Zatlers said in a Nov. 15 television interview.
Constitutional Protection Bureau Chief Janis Kazocins "has to explain how this could have happened," the president said.
A probe by the Internal Security Bureau, a division of the State Police, was launched after Gulbis and his family accused the police of torturing him while in custody. The probe found that the former officer suffered no physical or psychological mistreatment from the police.
The investigation into alleged torture was closed Nov. 15 after police said they found a video tape in which the former officer's appearance visibly changes as he walks away from a police detention center.
In the meantime, the probe uncovered a wealth of information indicating Gulbis' shady past.
Specifically, investigators claim that Gulbis forged a high school diploma and a Soviet award for international service. He also lied about his service in Afghanistan and has previously been arrested for burglary.
Any of these transgressions should have been enough to bar him from serving in the presidential and parliamentary security services had a proper background check been carried out.
Zatlers criticized the security services, as well as the Constitutional Protection Bureau 's the body in charge of appointing security officers 's after learning of the revelations.
"[This raises] very serious questions about our country's intelligence services," Zatlers said. "Each individual is assessed both by the Military Intelligence Service and the Constitution Protection Bureau," he said.
"The security services must see to it that there were no people with fake documents and criminal records in the presidential security service," Zatlers said.
Constitution Protection Bureau representatives defended the organization, saying that the bureau had no reason to check the facts on Gulbis' CV. The bureau claims that Gulbis never had access to state secrets or any information classified by NATO or the EU, so it had no reason to run a full background check on the individual.
As The Baltic Times went to press, the ombudsman's office was preparing to release a statement outlining its position on the controversy.
Before testifying on how he was treated by police while in detention, Gulbis signed a form claiming full responsibility should the information prove false. Perjury has now been added to the growing list of crimes the former security services officer stands accused of.
Gulbis faces criminal charges for his alleged involvement in a car bomb attack against Vladimirs Vaskevics, the head of the Customs Criminal Board of the Latvian State Revenue Service. Gulbis is also charged with fraud, using a fake education document and providing false testimony.
The investigation found that Gulbis never served in Afghanistan and forged the widely circulated pictures of himself with "fellow soldiers" in the 1980s. The police said the former security services officer also forged a letter of commendation from Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for his outstanding service in the war torn country.
Police said that they uncovered evidence that during the 80s Gulbis studied at a vocational school from which he was later expelled for poor results and truancy. This would mean that the former security officer also forged the diploma necessary to join the security services.
Moreover, police have uncovered reports that Gulbis was convicted of two burglaries in 1987.
Gulbis was thrown into the spotlight when he plunged into the Daugava River while being transported to a Riga police station. It is unclear whether he jumped or was pushed.
The investigations into the incident on the bridge and the missing police reports are ongoing.