RIGA - The medical profession was hit by fresh scandal as the Anti-Corruption Bureau (KNAB) made two major discoveries involving bribery among doctors and top officials.
In the first incident, a State Agency of Medicine official, Jelena Karasevska, was alleged to have accepted bribes over a long period of time, the anti-corruption watchdog said.
Karasevska is suspected of graft, while a relative of the official is suspected of mediating the bribery deal. An employee of a major drug distribution firm is being investigated for bribing the official.
The anti-corruption watchdog said Karasevska had been receiving bribes in exchange for certain services surrounding the registration of various medical preparations in the Latvian Registry of Medicines.
None of the suspects in the case have been taken into custody, but Karasevska has been banned from performing her official duties at the agency whilst the investigation continues. During the search, KNAB officers seized documents and other evidence from the official's office. KNAB has not disclosed the total amount of the alleged bribe.
The agency reportedly still considers Karasevska an honest employee.
The medical profession has been plagued for a long time with corruption and bribery scandals.
Shortly before the Karasevska bribery scandal came to light, the State Revenue Service and KNAB reported that not a single doctor has declared their gratuity payments on a tax form, despite an appeal for them to do so in June 2007.
KNAB head Aleksejs Loskutovs, whose institution has sharply opposed gratuity payments, told BNS that the doctors do not wish to declare gratuities since it would amount to a breach of ethics. He went on to say that taxes are not paid if the gratuities are not declared, which is also advantageous for the doctors.
Loskutovs said earlier that raising salaries will not solve the gratuity issue, and that strict control over the practice is necessary.
KNAB is attempting to keep the gratuity payments issue mainstream, but the Latvian Health Ministry is reluctant to cooperate with the bureau on the issue.
The State Revenue Service's appeal to doctors to pay income tax on the envelope payments was released in early June 2007, after the former head of the Traumatology and Orthopedics hospital, Valdis Zatlers, was nominated for president. Zatlers admitted that during his doctor's practice he received gratuity payments from his patients.
The president said that he never asked the patients for money and that the situation with illegal patient's payments is "not normal."
The State Revenue Service invited Zatlers to declare the additional income gained in the last three years so that they could calculate the back income taxes.
Over the next several months KNAB will investigate if Zatlers had breached the law while accepting additional payment for his work.