Latvija in brief - 2008-12-10

  • 2008-12-10
The Latvian Office for the Prevention of Laundering of Proceeds Derived from Criminal Activity has put a freeze on a total of 2.2 million lats (3.13 million euros) of potentially dirty money.  This was accumulated during eleven months this year. By the beginning of December 2008, the anti-money laundering office had forwarded 137 money laundering cases to law enforcement agencies, including 15 major cases involving 10 to 81 suspects. Large amounts of money - between one million and 20 million lats - are involved in 22 of the cases. State officials are involved in 11 of the cases, and in two cases, criminal proceedings have already been started.  The Latvian Office for Prevention of Laundering of Proceeds Derived from Criminal Activity was established under the prosecutor's office to analyze reports about unusual and suspicious transactions and to forward relevant information to the authorities.

Latvia and Slovakia currently share second place among EU member states,  for transposition performance.  Lithuania continues to rank first, among EU member states, for transposition of EU directives.  Thus, Latvia had increased its transposition performance, as previously it ranked third, with seven directives still to be transposed. At present Latvia still needs to transpose six EU directives. According to EU regulations, Latvia has to transpose 3,010 directives by October 23, 2009.  3,004 of these directives - or 99.8 percent - have already been transposed into national laws.  Lithuania has transposed 3,011 directives - or 99.87 percent  - out of 3,015.  Slovakia's transposition performance is exactly the same as Latvia's.  Bulgaria is in fourth place.  Luxembourg is at the bottom of the list.  As of  the end of October 2008, it had transposed only 2,923 out of 2,962 directives -  or 98.68 percent  The average transposition performance rate for all 27 EU member states is 99.34 percent.

The stepdaughter of Latvian President Valdis Zatlers received a near 2,000 lat (2,800 euro) contract this September, in relation to the ongoing renovation of the presidential residence in the Latvian sea-side resort town Jurmala.  Agnese Mangule, who is the daughter of the Latvian president's spouse, Lilita Zatlere, from her first marriage, received a contract for 1,950 lats, for drawing the sketches for the tea-house in the grounds of the presidential residence, and the lighting arrangements for the main building. Daiga Lauksteina, a representative of the company Valsts Nekustamie Ipasumi, which is responsible for the management of state-owned real estate, confirmed that Mangule had been the only bidder for the contract, although there had been several other inquiries about the tender. Under the effective law, procurement contracts for amounts below 10,000 lats do not require the organization of a tender, and development of tender regulations. The availability of the contract was announced simply by posting it on a Web site.  Zatlers' stepdaughter, chief designer at the Denovo furniture production plant, said she did not see any ethical problem with the situation.  Mangule has graduated the College of Applied Arts and the Latvian Academy of Arts.  The Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau KNAB said that the situation suggested the use of family relations for promotion of private business interests.  There will be no investigation of the incident.

Latvian Justice Minister Gaidis Berzins sees no objective reason why Latvia's non-citizens would choose to take Russian citizenship.  He sees no reason why people living  in Latvia's border towns might start actively applying for Russian passports, as it happened in Narva, Estonia.  In Berzins' opinion, the status  offered to Latvia's non-citizen offers more rights than Russia - for example, the right to travel freely across the European Union. Persons who take Russian citizenship risk losing the status of Latvia's non-citizens.  An increasing number of local Russian-speaking residents in Narva, in north-eastern Estonia, have been applying for Russian citizenship. Russian officials have said that Russia would protect its citizens living abroad.  This was one of the Russian arguments for starting the military conflict in Georgia.