Opinions split on Latvia's scandalous 'oligarch conversations'

There seemed to be little consensus among politicians July 5 on how to deal with the so-called 'oligarch conversations' scandal revealed by the Ir weekly magazine.

As previously reported by LSM, the revelations concern covertly recorded attempts by oligarchs Aivars Lembergs, Ainars Slesers, Andris Skele and their associates to seize ownership of businesses, decide political appointees, manipulate media sources and divide power among themselves.

However, a special Tieša runa broadcast on the scandal transmitted by LTV on July 4 showed that despite the nature of the revelations, not everyone is satisfied that action should be taken, with the prosecutor's office arguing that a huge investigation would need to be started with no certainty of securing convictions.

Journalist Juris Paiders of the NRA newspaper (which has a close relationship with Lembergs) questioned whether it was right of Ir to release only excerpted transcripts of the conversations, and reconstructed dialogues voiced by actors, rather than the original recordings.

Politician Edgars Tavars of the ZZS party (to which Lembergs belongs) expressed regret that the matter was being aired in public rather than being handled within the confines of law enforcement, where it has resided so far.

Ir editor Nellija Locmele said she had no doubt as to the authenticity of the material and that the method of dissemination was chosen in order to protect the highly sensitive sources that had provided the materials years after they were recorded.

Meanwhile journalist Guntis Bojars and former anti-corruption officer Juta Strike (now a Riga council deputy with the New Conservative Party) said the serious nature of the revelations absolutely justified releasing the material in the public interest.

Before the broadcast, Unity party leader Andris Piebalgs said his party would demand a special parliamentary commission to look into the oligarch conversations, but on the broadcast his party colleague Solvita Aboltina suggested it would be discussed by the Saeima's national security committee, which she chairs.

That position appeared to be supported by Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis (ZZS) July 5. Speaking on the LNT television channel he said he did not think a special commission would be required.

For Latvian speakers, the whole show can be watched via the image at the top of this page.

Meanwhile anti-corruption force KNAB has released declassified documents linked to its investigations of the oligarchs which show some remarkable spending patterns with luxury goods worth hundreds of thousands of goods purchased everywhere from Dubai to Hong Kong, London, Moscow and Paris.

Documents

KNAB_lemums par oligarhu lietas izbeigsanu.pdf

Download

2.37 MB

You can see this impressive shopping list in this attachment.

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