Latvia, the land of wiretaps

  • 2011-03-30
  • From wire reports

RIGA - Corruption Prevention Bureau (CPB) Chief Normunds Vilnitis is incapable of running the Bureau and obviously cannot cope with his duties, said Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (Unity) in an interview with ‘Radio 101’ on March 23, reports news agency LETA. Dombrovskis pointed out that the commission set up to assess Vilnitis’ suitability for his job will examine the information about Vilnitis’ alleged orders that politicians’ phone conversations be tapped and will decide on further action. Vilnitis, with no justification and in violation of the law, reportedly asked that phone conversations of several politicians be tapped, said CPB senior officer Juris Jurass at a meeting of the Saeima’s Corruption Prevention Subcommittee on March 22.
The request was made in the presence of the CPB’s deputy chief Juta Strike. Jurass refused to comply with Vilnitis’ order, and informed the Prosecutor General’s Office about this. According to Jurass, this is the reason why Vilnitis has initiated reforms at the Bureau, which actually means getting rid of those bureau officers who are disloyal to him.

Vilnitis, in an interview with LNT morning show ‘900 sekundes’ on March 25 denied the allegation that he had ordered the bureau’s officers to tap politicians’ phone conversations. “This was a great surprise to me. I can state unequivocally that this is an unfounded claim, phones are being tapped all the time, and this is officially sanctioned,” he said, adding that he “did not know anything” about illegal wiretapping.
The CPB chief also said he considered the accusation defamatory, and stressed that he had never violated the law - if he had, he would have been dismissed.

He said that the conflict at the bureau was proceeding according to a well thought-out plan, but declined to say who was planning his opponent’s moves. The Corruption Prevention Bureau must be reorganized, and if it is not, the name of the bureau should be changed to something more appropriate, for instance, ‘Bureau For Dealing With Political Opponents,’” Vilnitis said sarcastically.

Dombrovskis’ observations, however, were that “As for the phone tapping, there was an order, but the Corruption Prevention Bureau refused to observe it. This means that no phones are being tapped.”
Regardless of the conflicts, work at the bureau continues as usual. “The bureau’s performance is not bad - but it could be better,” said Vilnitis, adding that the number of dissatisfied employees at the bureau was decreasing, yet some of them were still trying to “sabotage” his decisions.

President Valdis Zatlers said after a March 23 meeting with Dombrovskis that the uncertainty and scandals surrounding the Corruption Prevention Bureau had been “going on for too long.” Zatlers said that, when participating in various meetings, the most frequent questions he had to answer dealt with the situation at the Corruption Prevention Bureau, and the persons asking these questions were mostly interested when the tension there would end.