MP released from custody, three suspected of illegal party financing scheme

Saeima deputy Artuss Kaiminš was released from police custody late June 21. He emerged from holding cells in northern Rīga and quickly departed in a car, but appeared soon afterwards on social media with party colleague Aldis Gobzems from inside the vehicle claiming his detention was politically motivated.

Then the pair popped up on the Riga 24 television channel with Gobzems claiming the events of the evening constituted nothing less than "the start of Latvia's fourth awakening," a reference to momentous epochs in Latvian history that led to the creation of the state and its renewal. 

"This evening means KPV LV will win the elections," he predicted.

Kaiminš echoed those sentiments.

"Today, now, now, now it [the fourth awakening] is starting!" said Kaiminš, thumping the desk and saying the events reminded him of Mikhail Bulgakov's writing.

"The good news is I am out, I am still a Saeima deputy and I will remain so," Kaiminš promised, saying he absolutely did not comprehend the measures taken against him and arguing that restrictions now placed upon his movements effectively prevented him carrying out his duties as a Saeima deputy.

Gobzems was not among those detained but two other individuals, party co-chairman Atis Zakatistovs and businessman Viesturs Tamužs were also released Thursday night after being detained around the same time as Kaiminš.

The Corruption Prevention and Combatting Bureau (KNAB) released a statement Thursday evening in which it confirmed three individuals had been given official "suspect" status, without naming them.

KNAB also gave a general outline of the case it said it had been compiling since June 5, 2017.

"KNAB obtained materials containing information about alleged criminal offenses against property, which resulted in the political organization receiving illicit financing," and outlined a fraudulent scheme dating from the spring of 2016 involving bogus contracts for consultancy work, a series of bank payments between companies and one individual receiving payments of 2,000 euros per month and an implication that the position of Minister of Economics was a bargaining chip on the table.

"A large amount of financial fraud was used to illegally finance a political organization. In addition, it was clarified that a deputy of the Saeima indicated false information on a large income in an official statement for the year 2015," KNAB said.

The information about ministerial positions being up for grabs is surprising given that Kaiminš' party, KPV LV, has never been part of a government coalition and Kaiminš is the party's only MP. If the allegations are accurate, it might however suggest the party sees itself a part of a future coalition with the ability to take charge of a ministry as a result. Parliamentary elections take place October 6. 

Despite the scandal, it is by no means certain the affair, and even the prospect of potentially facing criminal charges, will have a negative impact on KPV LV's pre-election campaigning. Despite being a new and small party, it now finds itself making all the national headlines and Kaiminš self-created image as a rebellious, populist non-conformist who is as a danger to the establishment will likely only be bolstered by all the attention and airtime.

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