Head of Latvian defense logistics center suspended

A week ago, military police detained Ervīns Kopeika, head of the State Center for Defense Logistics and Procurement  (VALIC). The Ministry of Defense did not publicize the event, but the website of the center shows that Brigadier General Kopeika is no longer in charge of the institution, which is subordinate to the Defense Ministry. The investigation was opened under the article on falsification of service, reports Latvian Television's "De facto" on May 5.

"Yes, we are now at the stage where the Military Police have opened this investigation and we are counting on the criminal proceedings to run their course, responsibly, with all the appropriate conclusions," Defense Minister Andris Sprūds (Progressives) confirmed. 

VALIC provides logistics for material and technical means in the defense sector, including procurement for the Ministry's institutions and the National Armed Forces (NBS). Minister Sprūds refrained from disclosing the exact subject of the investigation.

"It is clear that no further comments are being made here while the criminal proceedings are ongoing. The only thing I can confirm is that the head of VALIC has been suspended and a new acting head of VALIC has been appointed," said Sprūds.

The Ministry explains that Kopeika's suspension was requested by a duly authorized public official. In his place, the duties of the head of VALIC have been entrusted to the Director General of the Latvian Geospatial Information Agency, Mārtiņš Liberts. 

Unofficial information available to "De Facto" shows that the investigation against Kopeika has not been opened for any procurement but for paperwork.

According to public sources, in the first year of Covid pandemic, at the end of May 2020, the US Embassy presented Latvian government representatives with a gift of hand sanitizers and disposable gloves for the safe conduct of centralized exams in Latvian schools. 

The €13,500 donation from the US European Command Cooperation Programme was used to purchase 1,000 litres of hand sanitizer and 22,500 pairs of gloves. The supply to the schools was provided by the National Armed Forces in cooperation with the local authorities. 

The donation was first registered in the balance sheet of another institution, the National Center for Defense Military Objects and Procurement. After its reorganization, the disinfectants and gloves, which had long been distributed to schools, were transferred to VALIC, headed by Kopeika. It is therefore possible that criminal proceedings have been initiated for incorrect write-offs.  

The Armed Forces officially confirmed only that the Military Police had opened an investigation against one person for falsification of service. 

Kopeika, who was suspended from his post, refused to talk about the circumstances of the investigation in a brief telephone conversation with De Facto but made it clear that he believes the opening of the case against him was linked to his checks on the authorities. 

"In principle, the officials in charge of procurement control find a case that is X years old, and then it was pulled out at this very time when I was investigating, I think, more important things. And, miraculously, relatives of people involved in procurement are also involved in this case. Well, a lot of coincidences. A little earlier, the same people, about a month ago, tried to fabricate a mobbing case against me. There was an attempt to suspend me back in March," Kopeika said.  

He claims to have scrutinized defence procurement since the beginning of the year and to have uncovered significant irregularities - both falsification of documents and possible collusion. He also says he has identified the real culprits behind the €220 million food procurement. 

"The case against me has been going on for some time. If this case, why I was suspended, had been revealed at another time, all due respect. I am not shirking responsibility. If I have violated something, I will answer," says the suspended Kopeika. 

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