Latvija in brief - 2008-03-19

  • 2008-03-19
The financial police have uncovered yet another money laundering ring 's the second which has been exposed so far this month. The group reportedly laundered almost 3 million lats (4.27 million euros) between October and December of last year. The financial police have already arrested three people and frozen more than 75,000 lats in connection with the case. The group laundered the money by conducting fake transactions using documents, seals and personal data from approximately 30 different companies. The March 17 arrests came only 10 days after the financial police uncovered another major money laundering ring, which had managed to process about 6.5 million lats over the course of a few months last year. 

The State Revenue Service and Customs Criminal Board confiscated nearly 8 million cigarettes from a false horse feed truck shortly after it crossed over into Latvia from Lithuania on March 17. The total value of the cigarettes is estimated at 60,000 lats (85,372 euros). Police said there is a possibility that the cigarettes, which had Russian excise stamps, were destined for a Western European country but they could not yet be sure. The suspects have been detained and face a jail sentence of 10 years or a fine of 200 minimum wages.

Ojars Kalnins, director of the Latvian Institute, said he thought the country could gain international recognition in three fields: education, environment and culture. In a March 14 interview with public television, Kalnins said it is a positive sign that tourists coming to the country are becoming more focused on cultural activities rather than simply partying. He also pointed to the possibility of having a square on the new international Monopoly game which is due to come out. The Latvian Institute is a government funded organization targeted at improving Latvia's image abroad.

The Daugavpils Police force is set to reopen the investigation into a baby who was kidnapped 16 years ago. The police said the boy, who was kidnapped at the age of 6 weeks, has been found and enrolled in school. Though he does not have any personal identification documents, police representatives said they have good reason to believe that it is the same child. Daugavpils police representative Inguna Dunda, however, told BNS that the police are not sure what to do with the case 's even if they catch the criminals they would not be able to prosecute because the case had already been closed.

A number of animal rights activists gathered outside the Canadian Embassy on March 15 to protest the sale of products made from seals in Latvia. The protests were a part of larger European wide protests that took place on the same day to bring attention to the horrors of baby seal hunting. The protesters labeled baby seal hunting as "murder on ice," and said that clubbing baby seals is not real hunting. The activists were hoping to get the Latvian law changed to include a blanket ban on all seal products.