NGO calls for sacking Transport, Agriculture Ministers

Delna, the Latvian branch of Transparency International, has called for the Prime Minister to sack Transport Minister Uldis Augulis and Agriculture Minister Jānis Dūklavs (both Greens and Farmers Union) and, together with President Raimonds Vejonis, to publish case materials and assume responsibility for the investigation following the 'oligarch transcript' leaks by the Ir weekly. 

In an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis, Delna asks for the resignation of Uldis Augulis and Jānis Dūklavs. Both are named in the 'oligarch transcripts' that have caused a storm across Latvia by exposing breathtaking levels of cynicism and self-interest among people who often like to portray themselves working for the good of the country.

Delna claims that the two may be facing criminal charges for breaking articles one and two of Latvia's Constitution. Delna does not however provide a legal basis for the claim. 

The NGO also recalled the unofficial meeting between government ministers and Russian Vice Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, saying Kučinskis' vague answers to Delna's questions about the meeting amount to hiding government motives from the public.

Last August in Latvia Dvorkovich met with Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs (Harmony) and three government ministers from the Greens and Farmers Union, including Augulis and Dūklavs but also Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola. 

Meanwhile the letter to President Raimonds Vējonis asks to review the 'oligarch investigation' and to demand action from Prosecutor General and the Corruption Combating and Prevention Bureau (KNAB). It also asks to support the rights of the media and whistleblowers to inform the public over the case.

Delna calls for making the entire case files available to the public. 

In a batch of conversations released recently, serving Agriculture Minister Duklavs was included, apparently enjoying the oligarchs' plans to get rid of a troublesome prosecutor general - a potential breach of the line between politics and rule of law.

Yet Duklavs continues in his job, apparently with the backing of the Prime Minister.

The 'oligarch transcripts' published by the Ir weekly are based on conversations recorded by KNAB at the Rīdzene hotel as part of the so-called 'oligarch case' (recently closed citing lack of evidence).

The case was started in 2011 after the Saeima voted against allowing law enforcement officers to carry out a search at the residence of former MP and Transport Minister Ainārs Šlesers, one of those recorded on tape.

Following this, Valdis Zatlers, then president, made the shock decision of dissolving the Latvian parliament after hearing the original recordings and reacting with shock and disgust as a cadre of wealthy businessmen discussed how they planned to divide both political power and national economic assets among themselves.

The case revolved around suspicions that oligarchs Ainārs Šlesers, Andris Šķēle and Aivars Lembergs were the true owners of the Riga Commercial Port and that deals had been struck between Lembergs and Šlesers to bribe an official at the Riga Freeport.

Such rumors had long been rife, but the recordings provide substantial corroboration.

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