Prosecution of Usakovs and Ameriks to require European Parliament's decision

  • 2023-05-12
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - The prosecution of Latvian MEPs Nils Usakovs (Harmony) and Andris Ameriks (Honor to Serve Latvia) will need approval from the European Parliament, according to information available on the EU Parliament's website. 

At the request of the competent state authority to strip a MEP of immunity from prosecution, the European Parliament's president informs the plenary meeting about the request and submits it to the Legal Committee for review. 

The committee can request any information or explanation about the case it deems necessary. The MEP in question is given the opportunity to present their position on the case and they may submit documents or other written evidence.

The committee adopts a recommendation behind closed doors to approve or reject the  request to waive or defend immunity. At the next plenary after the committee's decision, the European Parliament adopts its decision by a simple majority vote. After the vote, the president immediately communicates the European Parliament's decision to the MEP concerned and to the competent authority of the member state concerned.

Once immunity is lifted, the MEP keeps his or her seat in the EP, as the MEP's powers are a public mandate and cannot be withdrawn by any other institution. Moreover, the lifting of a MEP's immunity does not mean that the MEP is found "guilty". It merely allows national judicial authorities to launch an investigation or legal proceedings.

As MEPs are elected under national electoral law, if a MEP is found guilty of a criminal offence, it is up to the national authorities to decide whether he or she thereby loses his or her mandate.

As reported, the Corruption Prevention Bureau (KNAB) has asked the Prosecutor General's Office to lay charges against former Riga mayor Nils Usakovs (Harmony), his then deputy Andris Ameriks (Honor to Serve Riga) and several other persons for causing a loss of around EUR 10 million to Riga City and a municipal company.

On Wednesday, KNAB sent the Prosecutor General's Office the case in which sufficient evidence had been obtained to suggest that four former officials of Riga City Council and a municipal company, as well as one individual, driven by greed, generated income for a minibus passenger service operator, a portion of which was to be regularly paid in cash as a bribe to two top officials of Riga City Council, KNAB informed LETA.

As a result of this criminal activity, the municipality and its company sustained a loss of more than EUR 10 million.

Evidence obtained in the KNAB investigation shows that the former Riga mayor and his deputy, using their position as senior municipal officials, solicited a large bribe from a natural person - the indirect owner of the minibus company.

The investigation established that the former Riga mayor, his deputy and the indirect owner of the minibus company agreed on the necessary actions to carry out the bribery deal.

The agreement provided for amending the existing regulations to enable the company to receive payments from Riga City Council through Riga's municipal companies for the transportation of passengers on discount fares, and to pay 30 percent of these revenues as a monthly cash bribe to the Riga mayor and his deputy. This extra income was earned by the general partnership and its members from May 2018 to April 2020.

In order to secure the adoption of legislative amendments, two other officials of the municipal company prepared and provided false information to decision-makers on the justification of the fare discounts and their impact on the economic interests of the municipality and its company.

The persons involved in the criminal offence were aware of the illegality of the the fare discounts and of the damage caused to Riga and its capital company. The criminal offences had serious consequences - the municipality and its company suffered losses of more than EUR 10 million.

KNAB has initiated criminal proceedings against four former public officials and one natural person, as well as taken restrictive measures against four legal persons in whose interests the criminal offences were committed.

At the end of March, Latvian Television reported that the persons probed as part of this case include Emils Jakrins, a former head of the Riga Transport Department, Leons Bemhens, a former head of Rigas Satiksme municipal transport company, and Aleksandrs Brandavs, who in 2018 was the beneficial owner of Rigas Mikroautobusu Satiksme (RMS) minibus company.