Maverick MP detained after closed-door Saeima committee session

LTV reported June 20 that a closed-door meeting of the Saeima's Mandates, Ethics and Submissions Committee met behind closed doors this morning, with the subject for discussion apparently maverick MP Artuss Kaiminš.

Representatives of the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) and Māris Urbāns from the General Prosecutor's Office were confirmed as being in attendance by LTV, but no further information as to the precise nature of the meeting was released in advance.

However, the LETA newswire reported that KNAB had detained Kaiminš immediately at the Saeima after the committee and chamber agreed to lift his parliamentary immunity.

According to witnesses, Kaiminš was read his rights and then was allowed to say a few words to media during which he appeared far less confident than usual, repeatedly mopping his brow and saying "I'm absolutely sure this has all been done so so there's plenty of cameras and microphones to show, inside and outside the Latvian media space, that Kaiminš has been detained and has been hit for I don't know what."   

Vitaly Orlov (Harmony party), chairman of the Saeima Committee on Mandate, Ethics and Submissions, told reporters that the commission today reviewed an application from the General Prosecutor's Office asking for Kaiminš' detention and a search of his property. The Commission supported the application unanimously. Orlov did not give any further details, and the Saeima itself supported the lifting of Kaiminš' immunity with 59 of 100 MPs granting permission.

KNAB confirmed on social media it had made an application to start a criminal case against a Saeima deputy, and would give further details when possible.

At lunchtime KNAB posted some information saying that it was investigating "unlawful financing of a political organization or an association of political organizations" and (parties) is forbidden, and "the adoption and expropriation of illegal financing of a political organization or association of political organizations."

Currently, three persons have been detained in the course of criminal proceedings, KNAB added.

Kaiminš, the controversial leader of the KPV LV political party is no stranger to the committee. Formerly an actor, he was initially elected as a member of the Latvia's Regional Alliance (LRA) political party in 2014. Such was his popularity that without him on their list, LRA would have struggled to win any seats at all.

However, Kaimins' erratic behavior, which includes walking through the corridors of power with a webcam and being arrested after causing trouble in a Riga restaurant, saw him part company with LRA in December 2015 to form his party Kam Pieder Valsts? (Who owns the country?), subsequently rebranded KPV LV.

Several other odd incidents have involved Kaiminš, such as the time someone threw a mailbox into his car. He was last up before the ethics committee in February after delivering a series of insults to another oddball MP, Valdis Kalnozols of the Greens and Farmers Alliance.  

KPV LV called a press conference for 13:00 to speak about the matter. In a rambling address, the party's prime ministerial candidate Aldis Gobzems said the day's events were designed "to remove Artuss Kaiminš from the political stage" ahead of parliamentary elections in October and that Kaiminš had "never told a single lie" and "never taken a single cent" of taxpayers' money for the party. He then departed on a long litany of accusations against virtually all other parties on the Latvian political landscape and particularly Ventspils mayor Aivars Lembergs.

"People need to open their eyes. This is no longer a joke. It's not a TV show," Gobzems said.

While it might at first seem the extraordinary move would negatively affect the party, given its self-image as a group of rebels causing headaches for an entrenched elite, the reverse might just as easily be the case, depending upon what, if any charges are eventually brought against Kaiminš.

Yet, as LTV's camera shows below, even as he left the building in the company of KNAB officers, Kaiminš' actorly instincts remained intact. Pausing before a large mirror he checked his tie and profile before descending the stairs like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard.

This story will be updated.

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