The "previous merits" of Aven and the manner in which he acquired Latvian and consequently EU citizenship had already been called into question by LTV's De facto investigative news show last year. Aven claimed Latvian citizenship in 2015 under a rule that allows such claims to be made by people who had ancestors living on Latvian territory between 1881 and 1940, but it also requires a demonstration of basic language proficiency.
While an investigation by anti-graft police failed to confirm that any bribes had been paid, numerous questions remained unanswered about how the language tests were carried out and how Aven gained a minimum pass mark despite disagreement even among the examiners. He gained Latvian citizenship in 2016. The investigation started in 2019 and came to an end in 2021.
Since February, Aven has been subjected to European Union sanctions linked to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The sanctions list calls Aven one of Putin's closest oligarchs, who has actively provided material or financial support to Russian decision-makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea or the destabilization of Ukraine and has benefited from it.
Immediately after the beginning of the war, political discussions began in Latvia on whether Aven should be deprived of citizenship, and relevant amendments to the Citizenship Law were adopted in April. The amendments provide that citizenship of Latvia may be stripped from a person who has "provided substantial financial, material, propagandist, technological or other support to states or persons who have carried out activities, including genocide, a crime against peace, a crime against humanity, a war crime that undermines or threatens the territorial integrity, sovereignty, independence or the constitution of democratic states". Citizenship may only be taken away if the person is a citizen of another State at the same time.
Already in May, Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns (Conservatives) addressed the newly appointed Interior Minister Kristaps Eklons (A/P!) asking him not to hesitate with the withdrawal of Aven's citizenship.
Bordāns told LTV: "There has been silence from the security services or indications that they do not see opportunities or needs. There has also been no response from the Citizenship and Migration Affairs Office. At the moment, I still believe that the issue of persons potentially causing security risks needs to be resolved."
The State Security Service (VDD) told De Facto that comments on the ongoing inspections will be withheld, but confirmed that so far they have not provided PMLP with information on the double citizens who might have their Latvian citizenship withdrawn.
The VDD has so far used other instruments to address the potential threat of non-loyal persons, such as launching 25 and taking four further criminal proceedings from the police against persons whose activities are contrary to the interests of Latvian national security, and on such grounds has also prevented 94 persons from entering the eastern border.
"The Minister for the Interior has also included 104 foreigners in the so-called blacklist or list of foreigners for whom entry to the Republic of Latvia is prohibited since February 24. We can point out that, in relation to identified risks, the blacklist includes two persons associated with Pyotr Aven," said VDD.
The VDD points out that it is an internal security service and therefore points to the Constitution Protection Bureau (SAB) in relation to Aven's activities abroad.
The SAB also does not disclose information on the specific checks it carries out, but said: "In order to encourage the process of renunciation of citizenship for a person, legally verifiable facts are required regarding the activities referred to in the law. Obtaining, processing and evaluating the relevant facts is a time-consuming process that requires communication with the competent authorities of other countries."
Minister for Interior Affairs Eklons said: "I certainly don't want to interfere in the competence of professional services. And if they need half a year then they have to study it for half a year. It is perfectly clear that the matter is very sensitive, it is about people standing high enough, about people's fate to some extent. And consequently, I am only interested in the fact that the investigation, the hearing process, would take place with the utmost care, and the conclusions would be clear and undisputable."