Friends of MP named as suspects in vote-buy scandal

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The Rēzekne district court will hear the case of possible vote-buying in the 12th Saeima elections, which called into question the overwhelming victory of Unity deputy Dzintars Zaķis in the Latgale constituency after the October polls. Two persons currently accused of organizing the vote-buy effort are named as suspects in the case: businessman and local government deputy from Viļāni Andris Kozulis and Andrejs Sačkovskis.

The former is well-known to be a close friend of Dzintars Zaķis, and now both Unity’s leadership and rank-and-file members are reported to be considering an expulsion of the MP in light of the serious suspicions cast upon him by the scandal.

The prosecution this week submitted into the court’s schedule the case in which the two persons are accused of paying voters various amounts of cash in exchange for a promise to vote for a specific party and marking a ‘plus’ next to the appropriate candidate, while striking all other candidates’ names from the ballot (a ‘minus’ vote moves candidates down in the rankings, while a ‘plus’ boosts them up a single notch in the total count).

The Security Police (DP) had previously searched the premises of the Pērtnieki dolomite quarry operator Vlakon, owned by close friends of Zaķis, Aļona and Andris Kozulis, in light of the leads it was pursuing. The company is the prime supplier of gravel to the state Roads Maintenance agency works in Latgale province. Zaķis and Kozulis are known to be fishing buddies, and they took a vacation to Georgia together last summer.  

A number of witnesses testified to the Supreme Court that they had heard about possible connections between vote-buying and the Vlakon firm. The deputy himself told the court he doubted whether his supporters could have organized illegal activity without his knowledge.

Although Zaķis himself is not formally under suspicion in the case, he temporarily suspended his active party membership until the investigation produced some results. Now party general secretary Artis Kampars told LR Thursday that Unity could very well rule soon on expelling Zaķis entirely should his involvement in the scandal prove to be suspect. “At that point the party’s reaction will be visible to all,” he said.

Viļāni local government deputy Juris Vidiņš of Unity, who first blew the whistle on the suspected vote-buying in his district immediately after the elections, himself came close to getting suspended from the party this week, however the party leadership put the issue on hold for now, citing more important national priorities at hand.

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