Twelve years ago, Deputy Chief of Staff of the National Armed Forces Colonel Igors Rajevs lost the highest-level access to state secrets. It is not known to the public why, and Rajevs himself does not offer an explanation of why. Soon afterwards, the officer was directed to the Baltic Defence College, or BALTDEFCOL in Estonia, Tartu. Work at the College for Rajevs ended with charges of fraud.
He considers himself to have made errors in filling out documents, but the indictment against him states that it had been a deliberate act.
Asked if it was a deliberate attempt to defraud money, Rajevs replied: "Of course not! That is, well, an unserious amount of money for which, of course, I would never risk it. It's not a million, it's not a hundred thousand, so talking about the fact that I tried to get a few hundred euros from the Ministry of Defense in some way is simply wrong."
The prosecutor's office accused Rajevs of defrauding money from the Ministry of Defense by presenting false data about the residence of family members in his place of service. In accordance with Cabinet regulations, soldiers serving in foreign states may receive an allowance for relatives if they live in a place of service or if they do not live there permanently, for days spent with a soldier.
“Yes, then, apparently somewhere, I made some mistakes, I filled these articles incorrectly, reports. But yes, it was obviously my mistake, which I have acknowledged, but no malicious attempt to defraud money from the Ministry of Defense, of course it wasn't,” Rajevs says.
According to the prosecution, Rajevs has twice knowingly indicated false information about his daughter's presence in Tartu, for which he has unduly received benefits of EUR 87 and EUR 45. This happened in March and April 2015. The prosecution pursued charges on small-scale fraud. The other article in the indictment is about fraud – in autumn 2015 Rajevs had not notified the Ministry that his wife is no longer resident in Tartu, although the conditions for the payment of the benefit would therefore change. The amount here is already higher at EUR 1,490.
“I kept indicating the days she was there, and in that way I also provided it. The question is that if she, for example, leaves Riga on Friday and comes to Tartu and is leaving on Monday morning, then I point out that she is in Tartu from Friday to Sunday. Accordingly, the Ministry considered that other dates should then be stated, and we could not agree with each other on the matter,” Rajevs described the situation from his point of view.
It is not clear from the court's decision how exactly what happened. But it is known that in 2016, the Military Police initiated criminal proceedings. The investigation continued until 2018 when the case was referred to the prosecutor's office, for which the evidence gathered was sufficient to produce an indictment. Rajevs now says he hasn't defrauded any money, but it has been difficult to prove his right.
The Colonel did not seek an immediate settlement with the Ministry of Defense. It was concluded only after the case was brought to court in summer 2019. This tactic was recommended by Rajevs' lawyer. Then Rajevs paid back the defrauded €1,623.
Defense Minister Artis Pabriks (Development/For!), who was in office when the settlement was concluded, said that the ministry has been responsible for recovering the money lost: “We know that this litigation is going on for a relatively long time in Latvia. The guilt, as I understand, was recognized, and it is our job to recover, first and foremost, those funds that have been lost to the State, and the other is, of course, without spending any excess funds. In my view, this friendly arrangement in 2019 was such a logical sequence following the previous two, two and a half years of investigation. Why did it take so long, it's hard for me to say it. I think it should be asked then, perhaps, to the previous leadership of the ministry.”
The case has been terminated on a rehabilitation basis. This means that Rajevs is not acquitted of the crime, but at the same time, he has no criminal record that would deny, for example, standing in elections.
Rajevs became widely recognized after the onset of the Ukraine war, when, as an expert, he commented on the course of the war. He eventually became one of the founders of the Uldis Pīlēns Society and stood in elections from the United List. Rajevs said that when he joined the party, they were informed about the matter: “They knew. I was talking to the leaders of the party, and yes, they knew about the matter, of course.”
“United List” leader Uldis Pīlēns told De Facto he would not comment on the issue.
Raimonds Bergmanis, who was defense minister at the time of the detection of offenses and criminal proceedings, has also been elected from the same list as Rajevs. Bergmanis said he had not known about the crime.
Andris Kulbergs, a faction member, said: “We are one for all, and all for one. And in this case, we did not see any wrongdoing when we examined this whole thing, and no situation, no indication of any mishandling. So I think that this question should be asked to Pīlēns and Rajevs, I'm not informed enough to answer anything for them."
Coalition talks between the United List and two other parties, New Unity and the National Alliance, continue this week.