RIGA - If Unity Saeima Group Chairman Dzintars Zakis, by some miracle of adopting high moral standards, resigns due to the recent car purchase scandal, Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs (Harmony Center), Harmony Center Saeima Group Chairman Janis Urbanovics and Culture Minister Zanete Jaunzeme-Grende should also step down due to various reproaches, says political scientist Iveta Kazoka, reports LETA.
Tvnet analyst Otto Ozols previously said that Kazoka and other experts are too easy in their attitude toward Zakis; therefore, Latvia will never reach higher moral standards as in Western Europe. “I am trying to be equally harsh or gentle to all parties. If Zakis is to step down, 100-200 other officials should do the same,” said the political expert, pointing out that, according to her personal moral standards, she could make a list with a couple of hundred officials who should not even be in politics.
According to Kazoka, this issue should be left up to Unity, which, perhaps, has missed the opportunity to act in compliance with the highest moral standards. She would be delighted to see a political party set higher moral standards in Latvia’s political arena than the current ones do.
However, the Reform Party, VL-TB/LNNK and Unity, who claim to be trying to observe extremely high standards, should not be set different criteria than those parties who tend to act unethically, explained Kazoka.
In regard to the recent scandal involving Zakis, Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (Unity) has ordered the Finance Ministry to find solutions in restricting value-added tax (VAT) scheming on automobile purchases. In an interview on the Latvian Radio program ‘Krustpunkta’ on June 15, Dombrovskis said that it is one thing to condemn this specific incident, but that it is also important to see what can be done so that such things do not repeat themselves in the future.
Speaking about the actions of Zakis, the prime minister emphasized that the politician made an ethical mistake, not a legal one. He added that Zakis has already admitted his mistake and promises to correct it.
Zakis said last week that he has met with management at his company Datoru Centers Ltd., where he agreed to repurchase his new Volvo XC60 SUV, thereby “resolving moral-ethical issues.” By repurchasing the car from the company, Zakis will have to pay the VAT - the root of the scandal.
He said that he now regrets that purchasing the car “created such a situation.”
Zakis is suspected of concocting a scheme so as to avoid paying VAT in the purchase of his new car.
According to documents made public by journalist Lato Lapsa, who also writes for the investigative news portal Pietiek.com, Zakis purchased the new Volvo at the beginning of the year without paying the state approximately 8,880 euros in VAT.
Zakis’ funny business doesn’t end with expensive new cars.
In additional to serving as a member of Saeima, Zakis is said to also have worked as in informant, by using his status to obtain information from officials, which he later relayed to influential businessmen, continues Pietiek.com.
According to documents obtained by the portal, which have already been submitted to the State Revenue Service and the Corruption Prevention Bureau, in one incident Zakis obtained information from officials at the Economy Ministry in regard to two properties in the coastal resort town of Jurmala, information which he later delivered to the owner of Latvian construction company A.C.B., Valdis Lejnieks.
An exchange of emails, which Pietiek.com has obtained, shows that the deputy director of the Economy Ministry’s Legal Department Kaspars Lore sent detailed information regarding two expensive properties in Jurmala, at Zakis’ request. This information was sent to construction tycoon Lejnieks the next week, who in previous years won several state-ordered construction projects.
In early June Zakis did not wish to answer questions why he requested information from state officials on these two specific properties, and why he later relayed this information to the businessman. Zakis also did not answer questions on whether he was paid for the information, whether he has sent information to other businessmen, why this information was sent specifically to Lejnieks, and how often he requests information from state officials that are later sent to businessmen.
Seventy-four percent of economically active residents in Latvia believe that in the wake of the so-called auto scandal, Saeima member Zakis should step down as the head of Unity’s Saeima group, according to a survey carried out by TNS Latvia and the LNT television channel. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed said that Zakis should “certainly” step down, while 23 percent said that they believe that Zakis should “most likely” step down.
Six percent of those surveyed said that Zakis should not step down as the head of Unity’s Saeima group, while 11 percent said that he “most likely” should not step down.
The survey was carried out from June 12 to June 14; altogether, 600 residents aged 18 to 55 were interviewed.
If Zakis does not wish to understand and admit to his mistakes, questions must be asked whether he still has a place in politics, added Kazoka. “If he had immediately admitted to his mistakes, then the call for him to step down would be too exaggerated [a response],” Kazoka emphasized.
“Zakis should have immediately admitted that his actions were not ethical for a Saeima member. Such actions are in conflict with Unity’s previously-declared principles of honesty and transparency, as well as the party’s appeals for residents to pay their taxes,” the political observer explained.
She said this situation must be reviewed by Unity’s ethics committee.