Anti-graft force KNAB claims success in Latvia-Lithuania bribery case

Latvia's anti-graft agency, the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) said March 1 it had recovered 120,000 euros in connection with a bribery case involving both Latvia and Lithuania.  

The case involves an attempt by an unnamed individual, representing an unnamed Latvian company, to bribe a senior member of the Lithuanian military in order to illegally secure a contract. 

"At the end of 2019, a natural person [i.e. an individual] in Lithuania was prosecuted for offering a bribe of EUR 90,000 to the Commander of the Military Air Force of the Lithuanian Armed Forces. The aim of the criminal offence was to ensure that the company unofficially represented by the natural person won a public tender for the lease of aircraft. The information contained an indication that the criminal offence was committed by the natural person in the interests of the company that is registered in Latvia," said a release by KNAB. 

On 29 June 2021, KNAB initiated criminal proceedings and on 19 April 2022, after obtaining sufficient evidence that the bribe was offered to a Lithuanian public official for the benefit of company registered in Latvia, KNAB transferred the criminal proceedings to the Prosecutor's Office.

International law stipulates that natural persons are prosecuted for bribery in the country where the criminal offence was committed, but if bribery was committed in the interests of a legal entity, the respective company is to be held liable in the country where it is registered. In this case the company was registered in Latvia even though the bribery attempt was being made in Lithuania.

 On 29 April 2022, the Prosecution Office adopted a decision to refer the proceedings for imposing coercive measures on the legal entity to the Court of Economic Affairs.

The Court of Economic Affairs, in turn, found that the natural person had made the bribe offer in the interests of the particular legal entity and imposed a coercive measure on the company – the recovery of funds worth EUR 120,000.

Ineta Cīrule, Deputy Director for Investigation Matters of KNAB said:

“Combating bribery of foreign public officials has been one of the priorities of the KNAB for several years. This is confirmed by statistics as so far the KNAB has successfully investigated five cross-border corruption cases and two of them have resulted in convictions.”

However, despite the fact that the case first came to light nearly three years ago, it still appears to have some way to go before reacing a conclusion.

“The Prosecution Office has so far strongly supported the actions of holding a legal entity liable when a criminal offence is committed in the interests of, for the benefit of, or as a result of improper supervision or control over a legal entity, including when bribery of a foreign public official has been established. The Prosecution Office intends to follow this course in the future by supervising pre-trial investigations, prosecuting, and maintaining the prosecution in court,” said Jānis Omuls, Head Prosecutor of the Prosecutor's Office.

As previously reported by LSM, KNAB chief Jēkabs Straume recently came under fire for not being active enough. Since that criticism was made, KNAB has been issuing updates about numerous cases as part of an apparent effort to refute the claims of inaction.

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