Latvian citizenship for sale, benefits huge

  • 2001-11-22
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - An advertisement offering Baltic citizenship and passports in the Russian newspaper Kommersant has caught the attention of Latvian officials.

Naturalization board head Eizenija Aldermane and citizenship and migration board deputy head Janis Lejins told the parliamentary commission for implementation of the citizenship law that the advertisement was bogus.

"It's either a provocation or just a fraud," Aldermane said, implying that foreign powers might want to promote the idea that citizenship matters are lax in Latvia.

But Lejins said forged Latvian passports could be bought in Riga for 25 lats ($40) a piece. The supposition is that, with Latvia about to join the European Union, the passports represent a back door into Western Europe and are a good investment.

"In Latvia this year, from Jan. 1 to Nov. 1, 10,000 Latvian passports have been reported missing and only half of them have been returned to their rightful owners - the other half could have been used to falsify passports," he said.

Lejins said the advertisement, offering Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian or French citizenship for around $20,000, "could only be of interest to criminals who are in need of more than one citizenship and can afford to pay the price."

According to the advertisement in Kommersant by the company Euroshore, potential clients need to produce a valid birth certificate, a document rarely required in order to obtain Latvian citizenship.

Baltic News Service placed a call to Euroshore's office in France and reported that a Russian-speaking man explained that Latvian citizenship would cost $20,000 and that the process could take three to six months.

Latvian police have decided to look into the matter.

State police spokesman Krists Leiskalns confirmed to The Baltic Times that a request for assistance had been made to French police.