RIGA - The anti-corruption bureau, or KNAB, has announced that corruption in Latvia is becoming more intricate, complex and therefore increasingly similar to corruption in Western Europe.
While the overall level of corruption seems to be going down, KNAB representatives said the cases themselves require more resources to uncover.
"Statistically there were a few less cases, but they involved much more sophisticated investigations 's which of course requires more resources," KNAB spokeswoman Diana Kurpniece said.
"We are finding out multiple parties are guilty, it is not just one reporting on another," she said.
Kurpniece said the organization was starting to work more closely with state police and border guards to pull off complicated sting operations.
In a report delivered to Parliament and the Cabinet of Ministers on March 11, KNAB said its operations in the second half of 2007 revealed a more intricate kind of corruption.
Corrupt officials who have had some training in catching criminals are starting to use that knowledge to evade punishment more effectively.
Politicians and businessmen now generally take bribes only through trusted intermediaries, the report said, in a similar vein to how corrupt officials function in Western Europe and other "developed countries."
The bureau also found an increase in organized crime. By way of example, the report points to one major case in August 2007, when KNAB arrested 12 people 's which included numerous state officials 's in connection with a major ongoing bribery scandal.
"Corruption like extortion of bribes is possibly decreasing, but we cannot say that corruption is gone. We are still finding out about syndicates which in an organized way try to break laws," Kurpniece said.
The report also drew attention to the rampant campaign-spending violations unveiled at the end of last year. Of the 19 political parties that participated in the last national elections, only eight managed to stay within their spending caps.
The five worst offenders overspent their budgets by a total of nearly 1 million lats.
The news was not all bad, however. The report highlighted the fact that corruption in general seems to be abating and businesses are taking a more responsible view toward bribery.
The report noted that 90 percent of public institutions have recently prepared new strategies for combating corruption, and more than 80 percent have adopted formalized codes of ethics.
Moreover, individuals in numerous institutions are starting to send KNAB information about corrupt officials. They have also been receiving requests on clarification on the law on conflict of interests, signaling that many officials are becoming more aware of the possible dangers of holding multiple government and business positions.
Conflict of interest cases is one of the few areas in which corruption remains strong.
"Concerning conflict of interest, there are still, we've found, quite many cases like this. It is at the same level as [previous years]," Kurpniece said.
In the second half of the last year, the anti-corruption bureau concluded 346 investigations into "conflict of interest on the part of state officials." Of those, 52 officials were fined and 12 issued warnings.
Notably, there was also a large number of cases involving high-ranking state officials, including eight Saeima (parliament) members and five former Saeima members.
After hearing the results of the report, Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis asked KNAB to supplement the findings with statistics supporting the claim that administrative level corruption is decreasing. He also requested statistics on the bureau's workload.