Saeima committee to investigate Citadele sell-off takes shape

The parliamentary investigation commission created to probe the sell-off of the state-owned shares of Citadele Bank assembled for its first meeting Thursday, electing Latvia’s former Constitutional Court chairman, MP Gunārs Kūtris (For Latvia From The Heart) as its chairman. 

Janis Trupovnieks (Greens-Farmers Union) will serve as deputy-chairman, while Imants Paradnieks (National Alliance) will be its secretary.

Speaking to the press as the newly-elected commission chairman, Kutris pointed out that the Citadele Bank sell-off was a done deal, and given his judicial and legal experience, he believes the transaction cannot be overturned.

Nevertheless, the deal is incomprehensible not only to the general public but also to many lawmakers, he said, suggesting that some ruling coalition representatives might be aware of the details but the opposition had been kept in the dark and it will be the task of the investigation commission to shed some light on the final agreement reached.

Kutris said he would try to get to the bottom of why there was such a hurry on the part of the government to close the deal was made and whether the terms of the sell-off procedure had been fair.

"We need to establish what the situation was,” he said.

Each of the six parties elected to the 12th Saeima has delegated two MPs to work on the investigation commission.

The commission established at the proposal by the opposition leftist pro-Russian Harmony party is to investigate the arrangements and transparency during the sell-off process, the criteria for determining the price and the duration of the resale ban, the agreement terms and other aspects related to the sale of the state-held shares in Citadele Bank.

The 75-percent stake in Citadele Bank currently held by the Latvian state is to be sold to a group of international investors, including US private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings, for an estimated price of 74 million euros.

But under the sales agreement, the purchase price can be adjusted based on the bank's performance through the end of 2014 in comparison with its projected performance, and the proceeds of any resulting reduction in purchase price will be invested in the bank.

The signing of the agreement was approved by the Latvian government during a meeting behind closed doors on October 28, and the agreement was signed on November 5.

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