Some Saeima deputies have questioned the validity and reasons for Kariņš using private jets for his foreign visits. Kariņš responded by saying that the Latvian government should consider buying a jet for its own needs. The State Audit Office has also been asked to examine the issue.
In November, LTV's De Facto reported that former Prime Minister Kariņš used private jets for 18 foreign trips in the past three years, with more than 600 thousand euros paid for 32 flights from the state budget. Part of the voyages were paid for by the European Union. Latvian Telelvision's broadcast "What is happening in Latvia?" previously reported that Kariņš' flights covered by the EU have cost more than for any other EU country.
As it costs several times more to use a private flight than to fly a passenger flight, several Saeima deputies requested information about whether passenger flights also flew to the same destinations on the same days and whether they had free seats. Poland's LOT replied. Others, including airBaltic, did not respond because such information is commercially sensitive.
The national airline “airBaltic” agreed to reply only in writing to LTV's other questions, because "their arguments have already been made".
“Data related to the ticket reservation and pricing policy strategy is business information […] of the company and is considered commercially sensitive. […] Thus, its disclosure may adversely affect the company's competitiveness. […],” said Augusts Zilberts, public relations manager of airBaltic.
Several deputies subsequently requested this information from Transport Minister Kaspars Briškens (Progressives), and now the Saeima's Inquiry Committee has been given a response. However, the document in question has a restricted access status.
LTV has data on airBaltic passenger flights on the same days and on the same destinations Kariņš went to on a private jet. They show that there were enough seats on airBaltic aircraft. On some planes, as many as 100 seats. Polish company LOT also had vacant seats on its flights.
Deputies have already turned to the State Audit Office, and other deputies are prepared to turn to the Prosecutor General's Office.
“The State Chancellery and the Prime Minister, in signing responses to our myriad of requests, mention that the use of private jets has been justified as alternatives and circumstances have been carefully assessed. Clearly, that's not true. Parallel flights were freely available. There have been empty seats,” said Saeima deputy Edvards Smiltēns (United List).
The Foreign Minister Kariņš was on a working visit to Brussels on Thursday. He disagreed to take a phone call, however he made a written comment:
“The Prime Minister must rationally use the time to fully lead the government in Latvia and defend the interests of the country internationally.”
The findings of the audit report in this case by the State Audit Office is expected in early March.