Summed up

  • 2000-11-16
PRIVATE PRISONS: Estonia is to begin privatizing its prisons by the end of 2001, the business daily Aripaev reported. If businessmen are able to provide prison services in accordance with the law and cheaper than the state, privatization is fully justified, Justice Minister Mart Rask said. The idea will be introduced to the Cabinet in the first months of next year. There are about 4,740 prisoners in Estonia at present, and their sustenance together with investments annually costs nearly 250 million kroons ($13.6 million).

DRUG SMUGGLING: British police in early October detained a Latvian citizen who was driving a truck with 300 kilograms of cannabis resin and 20 kilograms of marijuana hidden in it, Rigas Balss reported. The drugs were hidden behind racks of clothes meant for sale abroad. The man was hired by a Latvian dress-making company which was making clothes for British and Belgium companies. The vehicle had come from Riga but arrived in the United Kingdom via Belgium. It is not yet clear where the drugs were loaded onto the vehicle. The case is being investigated by the British police.

ONLY 800: The organizers of celebrations of Riga's 800th anniversary in summer 2001 want to invite one of the world's five most popular and most expensive rock stars to join the closing concert of the anniversary celebrations. Such a concert could involve higher costs than an earlier proposal for the staging of the opera "Aida" at Mazaparks open-air concert facility. Staging the opera may cost 500,000 lats ($806,000). Riga Mayor Andris Argalis has said the opera performance could be canceled. The organizers of the anniversary events say the costs of the opera are too high and will not attract international attention. The Riga City Council has decided to allocate nearly 4 million lats for the anniversary.

VISAS DROPPED: Estonia and Israel will sign an agreement on the abolition of visa requirements for their citizens when visiting each other's country on Nov. 16. during a visit by Israel's ambassador to Estonia. The agreement provides for visa-free movement and related obligations, and establishes obligations on the re-admission of citizens. Under the agreement, Estonian citizens can stay in Israel and Isreaeli citizens in Estonia for 90 days per half year. The movement of holders of diplomatic and service passports is regulated separately.

ESTONIA FILM: Julia Ormond and Martin Sheen will play the lead roles in a film to be made about the ferry Estonia catastrophe entitled "Baltic Storm." The producer of the film is Jutta Rabe, the German journalist who in August organized together with U.S. businessman Gregg Bemis a diving expedition to the wreck, Finnish news agency STT reported. The full-length feature film will not directly deal with the ferry's sinking but will be about a woman journalist who decides to start investigating the cause of the catastrophe on her own. The film is based on a theory that it was a mafia plot that sank the Estonia. Shooting is set to start in February. The car and passenger ferry Estonia sank en route from Tallinn to Stockholm in a storm on Sept. 28, 1994, claiming 852 lives.

EXPLOSION RUINS HOUSE: A gas explosion destroyed a house in Upininkai village in central Lithuania, leaving 12 families homeless. No casualties were reported. The explosion occurred when the gas facility was being installed in the house, blowing off the top third floor of it completely. The police said that the explosion caused such extensive damage that the house is uninhabitable.

ITALY GETS SMUGGLER: An international drugs trafficker, Ali Ay, was extradited from Lithuania to Italy on Nov. 9 on the request of the Italian government. A Swedish citizen of Kurdish origin, Ali Ay, 38, was detained at Vilnius Airport on Aug. 11 on his arrival from Stockholm when border police determined that the suspect was wanted by Turkey and Italy on drugs smuggling charges and other criminal activities. Ay had been sentenced in Italy and in absentia in Sweden.

BOLSHEVIKS CHECKED: Latvian police is investigating the possible link of National Bolsheviks, a radical leftist organization in Russia with a group of supporters in Latvia, to the recent blast at a magazine's editorial office in Daugavpils, eastern Latvia, Daugavpils police department chief Imants Bekess said Nov. 13. A blast occurred in the editorial office of Kapital Latgalii magazine late Nov. 7 causing damages to the premises and office equipment as well as smashing out windows. Soon after the blast the police presented three investigation theories, including economic problems, division of zones of influence or hooliganism. The magazine's management meanwhile said the blast in the editorial office was organized for political reasons.