• 2001-01-25
When something big is expected to happen in Latvia the rippling effect, unlike that in nature, starts long before the event itself.

The second attempt to privatize one of Latvia's huge state-owned companies, the Latvian Shipping Company, has caused some waves as well.

The company's state trustee Eizens Cepurnieks' revelations of the process's alleged corruption to various institutions and sudden statements to the press, followed by his sudden disappearance Ð reportedly on a sailing holiday off Africa Ð just a week before the final deadline for bids for this multi-million dollar deal seems like a desperate attempt to spoil if not the deal itself, then the public opinion about it for sure.

To say that everyone is corrupt, to give indirect but pretty clear hints on who is giving bribes to whom and why, and then go sailing in some warm and nice place far away from here is enough, it seems, to keep everyone running. As the author of these allegations is not mentally ill - in fact he is a Western-educated man with a high position in society and should know what he is saying Ð the story seems catchy enough that "arm-chair analysts" suspicions that "everyone up there is corrupt" get oiled again.

However, when the allegations are checked, even Cepurnieks' compatriots unwillingly must admit that it might be a one of these "An old lady told me..." situations.

This scheme is much too familiar. Let's take Janis Adamsons, a notorious Social Democrat MP, who named three people allegedly involved in the pedophilia scandal last year. The prosecutors' office investigated this case and found no evidence for these statements. What happened with Adamsons, the slanderer? Nothing.

To shut the blabberers up, Transparency International is getting involved in the monitoring of the privatization process. For just $5,000 donated by the Soros Foundation, society will get the chance to check this multi-million deal in which the net turnover for companies who are entitled to bid may not be less than $191 million. It's no surprise that some politicians find the monitoring, unprecedented in Latvia, hard to believe. We find it hard to believe as well. But someone has to start cleaning of the closet and this is a good start.