Anti-corruption bureau detains major suspect

  • 2003-11-13
  • By Aaron Eglitis
RIGA - Agents from the Corruption Prevention and Control Bureau detained an unknown individual, Harijs Korngorns, on Nov. 10 in connection with allegations of fraud involving the introduction of digital television in Latvia.

Because of the ongoing investigation, Diana Kurpniece, spokeswoman for the anti-corruption bureau, declined to reveal the charges against Krongorns, a former employee of Business Management and Consulting, a company owned by former Prime Minister Andris Skele.
However, Krongorns' lawyer Aivo Leimanis said that the detained party was suspected of fraud and attempting to expropriate assets, the LETA agency reported.
In addition to the detention, bureau investigators have raided the offices of Business Management and Consulting and searched the homes of three executives of Kempmayer Media Ltd., the London-based company that signed a 53.3 million euro contract with the government to help develop infrastructure for developing digital TV in the country.
A big part of the controversy surrounds a 23 percent stake in the superlucrative Latvijas Mobilis Telefonas that was given by the state to the Latvian Digital Radio and Television Center. State officials wanted to help finance the expensive digital TV project through LMT dividends.
Experts say the stake is worth 150 million euros - 200 million euros.
Prime Minister Einars Repse has long decried the deal - even before coming to office last October - claiming that the real owners of KML were from Latvia and not the United Kingdom.
Other criticism focused on Kempmayer's limited experience, shadowy origins and high costs.
Eager to throw out the contract, the Latvian government in September turned to the Stockholm Court of Arbitration, while the anti-corruption bureau began to look into allegations of corruption surrounding the deal.
Skele, who earlier this year expressed interest in the digital TV project but backed out once Latvia took Kempmayer to court, slammed the detention, saying the prime minister was trying to intimidate his rivals. He denied any personal connection with KML. The former prime minister said that masked men armed with automatic guns had raided the business offices, and that Korngorns had been detained at his home. He even drew comparisons between the detention of Korngorns and the raid at Business Management and Consulting, and the recent arrest of Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky by Russia's President Vladimir Putin.
Skele is a political rival of current Prime Minister Einars Repse.
Kempmayer Media, whose exact owners are unknown despite attempts by the local media to penetrate the shell of secrecy, refused to comment.