Saeima blocks Harmony bid to stop Citadele sale

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For the fourth time in as many weeks, Saeima voted against an opposition Harmony bill calling for the government to “immediately halt” the sale of the state-owned shares of bailed out commercial bank Citadele and reveal the details of the deal in a thorough report to parliament.

At its plenary session Thursday, Saeima again rejected the proposal submitted by the Harmony faction, thus wiping it off the current parliamentary agenda.

However, Harmony has been pursuing additional measures targeted at stopping, or at least making public more details of the sale of Citadele’s 75% state-owned stock to US investor group Ripplewood Holdings.

The Harmony faction has also collected signatures among Saeima members for calling an extraordinary plenary session to discuss and vote on the issue, however has yet to reach the minimum support of 34 MPs needed to initiate it.

Just in time for election day week, on September 29 Harmony announced that its proposal for stopping the sale of Citadele had reached the threshold of minimum signatures on the informal electronic citizens’ petition portal to qualify for the initiation of a popular referendum on the issue. However that did not sway the Saeima from rejecting the bill for a third time at its October 2 regular plenary session.

Meanwhile Harmony deputy Andrejs Elksnins has petitioned the General Prosecution and the Corruption Combating and Prevention Bureau (KNAB) to begin criminal investigations to fully ensure the legality of the transaction. KNAB has announced that it will make an official inquiry into the matter.

As reported, the sale of the state-owned share of Citadele has proceeded recently with the acceptance of Ripplewood’s offer of about €74m for the 75% stock package. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which continues to hold the remaining quarter of the bank’s stock, has also announced its support for the deal to proceed.

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