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Tourist scams under investigation

  • 2009-07-15
  • TBT staff

CRIMINAL CLUBS: The new task force will be tasked will cracking down on tourist scams, following a few recent high profile cases.

RIGA - The Riga Regional Police Administration has launched eight criminal procedures, investigating scams and rip-offs against tourists, following a city-wide crackdown.
Two of the reported incidents took place in June; while six criminal procedures were launched in May, after police received information from Finland.

 The Latvian government is currently stepping up measures to tackle tourist scams.
A special task force has been formed, with officers required to attend the site immediately after receiving reports of a suspected tourist scam.
The Riga Regional Police Administration has also developed a plan of action to tackle ongoing incidents of tourist related crime.
 Following increased cases of fraud and even physical abuse targeted at tourists recently, President Valdis Zatlers called on responsible officials to develop tough measures to ensure the safety of foreign nationals in Riga.
 Zatlers also expressed concern about state and municipal institutions' inability to ensure foreign tourists' safety in Riga, as well as the damaging effect such cases have on Latvia's image and tourism potential abroad.

FIGHTING CRIME

Discussions at a meeting last month between President Valdis Zatlers, government ministers and police chiefs centered on strategies to tackle the ongoing problem.
 Participants in the discussion resolved to introduce stricter regulations to protect tourists and employ greater efforts to close down the clubs known to defraud tourists.
 According to Interior Minister Linda Murniece there are eight such clubs in downtown Riga.
The minister added the closure of these clubs will serve as a warning to other entertainment establishments seeking to cheat travelers to Riga.

However, Sandra Kukule, advisor to the president in legal matters, told media representatives the current situation regarding tourists scams is puzzling.
"Everybody knows what clubs are in question, yet not enough is being done to solve the problem," she said.

During May and June, the Riga Regional Police Administration, in cooperation with the State Revenue Service, the Food and Veterinary Service, the Consumer Rights Protection Center, and the Fire and Rescue Service, carried out 16 inspections at night clubs and bars in Riga.
The alcohol licenses of Lord Pub, Puzzle, and Temple were revoked after police uncovered various violations and administrative breaches.

Some of the establishments were previously known to police or were operating under different names in a bid to escape punishment for past breaches.
In a statement issued following last month's meeting, the U.S. Embassy said that it welcomed the president's initiative to reduce tourist related crime.

 "This meeting is a positive step, and we welcome the commitment to outline concrete action in a period of two weeks. Ensuring the safety and welfare of American citizens visiting and living in Latvia is a top priority for the embassy, and the governments continued attention to this issue will send the message that Riga and Latvia remain welcoming destinations for foreign tourists and investors essential to economic development," the statement said.

A U.S. embassy blacklist of Riga bar and clubs updated on July 14 includes Babylon (formerly Roxy Klub), Royal (formerly Lord's Pub and Groks Pub), Saxon, Foxy Lounge, Infinity Bars (formerly Bar Fly), Mary, Pussy Lounge (formerly Doll House and Zig Zag), Puzzle" (formerly Pink Panther), Roxbury (formerly Mademoiselle Cigar Club), Sakura (formerly Nobu Sushi), Zephyr Bar, Versace and Cognac Bar.