Lecturer detained for attempting to destabilize the lat

  • 2008-11-26
  • By Monika Hanley

FREEDOM OF SPEECH: The rector of Latvia's Ventspils University said that he expected a written explanation for the detention.

RIGA - Dmitrijs Smirnovs, a lecturer at Ventspils University, was detained by police for allegedly attempting to destabilize the Latvian financial system.
In a discussion on the future of the Latvian economy, Smirnovs made several digs at the lat and its lack of stability, calling the currency "very dangerous."  He also warned of the euros instability.
"The only thing I can advise: first, not to keep money in banks, second, not to accumulate savings in lats as it is very dangerous now. Convert them to U.S. dollars. The euro is an artificial currency, and what is achieved by the euro in a year, can be lost in a month. These are real threats to the value of the euro," Smirnovs said in the lecture. 

The head of the university, Janis Vucans, said he was surprised at the allegations.  
Vucans, who himself participated in the discussion, said it was just an ordinary seminar that encouraged everyone to participate. Smirnovs gave lectures on banks and monetary systems.
Smirnovs also made comments regarding U.S. financial and foreign policy.
"Maybe some people do not understand it, but the main oppositionist and competitor to the U.S. is the EU. The main goal of the U.S. is to destroy the EU as it does not benefit from a strong and united Europe, strong currency - the euro," the lecturer said.

Headmaster Vucans explained that the statements were relevant to the topics at hand.
"On what basis should we lecture? Not on examples of some Switzerland or the U.S., the situation in Latvia is more important to us," he said.
Vucans also went on to say that "the question is whether we are teaching something abstract that does not refer to us or we are trying to educate our students on issues that are topical."
Smirnovs told LNT news that he was detained for 48 hours "like in an American crime film."
Smirnovs, after saying he was not guilty of any crime also said that "I am a very loyal citizen, and I have no thoughts about undermining the Latvian financial system, or to destabilize Latvia. I am a patriot."
Smirnovs will be allowed to finish teaching his fall semester classes, but it is uncertain whether or not he will continue to teach.

Police also confiscated his laptop on which he had started writing a book on real estate in Latvia. It is unknown when his laptop and notes will be returned to him.

Repeat offender

This wasn't the first time Smirnovs has made provocative comments.
On Nov. 14, Smirnovs published comments in the newspaper Ventas Balss that said in case of bankruptcies of banks, the Deposit Guarantee Fund would not be able to repay all deposits.
According to the Finance and Capital Markets Commission (FKTK), 461 million lats (656 million euros) worth of deposits were taken away from Latvia in October. Smirnovs said that deposits are flowing out because people's trust in the commercial banking system is waning.

Smirnovs detention raises questions about fundamental democratic rights.
Ventspils University Student Council's Chairwoman Liene Liepina told the Baltic News Service that "Latvia is a democratic country and accordingly, there should be freedom of speech."
The Security Police have detained two people for attempting to destabilize the Latvian financial system.
Smirnovs detention is not the first. In order to catch the party responsible for starting rumors regarding Parex Bank, a criminal procedure has begun against a concert singer in Jelgava. On Nov. 9, the singer asked crowds to wait until after the concert to withdraw money from Parex Bank and Latvijas Krajbanka.