Criminal proceedings launched in Kariņš flights controversy

An investigation into the use of air transport contract services during Krišjānis Kariņš' tenure as Prime Minister has been completed and criminal proceedings have been launched as a result, the Prosecutor General's office announced March 22.

As prevously reported by LSM, Kariņš – who is now the Minister of Foreign Affairs – has come under heavy criticism and close scrutiny over his use of aviation services while holding the premiership. Criticism has centered on whether all his flights were necessary to fulfil his official duties, and whether they were too expensive, with special charters being paid for as well as scheduled tickets.

While acknowledging that charters might sometimes be necessary, and that "there is currently no regulatory framework that would regulate the receipt of air transport charter flight services", the Prosecutor General's office also found that "for the special contract trips, which were organized from 2021 to 2023, more sums were spent than was provided for in the contracts concluded with travel agencies for the organization of contract trips. It was concluded that the actions of the State Chancellery, not conducting a public procurement for the provision of business trips, despite the fact that the predicted contract price would with a high probability exceed the limit values ​​of the contract prices set by the Cabinet of Ministers, indicates an unjustified application of the exception contained in Article 5, Clause 13 of the Law on Public Procurement."

The State Chancellery has now been given six months to develop a regulatory framework which provides conditions for the purchase of special contract travel services for business trips, including business trips to meetings of European Union institutions, as well as to draw up internal regulations to ensure the execution of contracts in accordance with the Public Procurement Law.

Between 2019 and 2023 "the State Chancellery, which is responsible for monitoring the budget of the Cabinet of Ministers, may have wasted a large amount of financial resources. Therefore, there is a real possibility that a criminal offense has occurred," said the Prosecutor General's office.

Criminal proceedings have been initiated, and handed over to Latvia's anti-graft force, the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) for further action.

It is worth noting that the statement by the Prosecutor General's office made no mention of Kariņš bearing any personal liability. Rather, fault was found with the State Chancellery, as the civil service department that administers central government. 

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