In the early spring of 2017, goods were given to the Latvian Army by the U.S., including night-vision equipment. About a year later, the American partners were interested in the equipment and its use, but it was then discovered that they were not in the warehouse at all. As it was later clarified, night vision devices worth just under $160,000 during the year had never been accounted for and had not been placed in storage.
The military police, hand in hand with the prosecutor's office, launched an investigation and revealed a rather ugly picture – not only that equipment had disappeared from the army for nearly ten years, but firearms ammunition, bayonets, magazines, bullets – for a total of €339,663.
As the broadcast was told by the Chief Prosecutor of the Office of the specialized Public Prosecutor of Organized Crime and Other Sectors, Gita Biezuma, it all started with the violation of munitions recording requirements, in a department that allowed the ammunition not to be listed.
In the case sent to the court, four former soldiers are now accused of theft of firearms ammunition and abuse of the position of the service. The broadcast has identified Deniss Artamonovs, a long-standing military police soldier who had previously managed one of the weapons warehouses before the events but has worked at the Joint Headquarters for the last few years. Another of the defendants was a specialist in the armed warehouse, Konstantīns Firsovs, who served in the Security Command since 2012.
The accused soldiers had been paid for the 'supply' of goods from an army warehouse, so the officials are held liable for a financial offense. Only one of the four men had been in contact with the arms and ammunition vendor, Andrejs Staņiševskis.
Staņiševskis is accused of organizing crimes, obtaining firearms munitions, and also illegally carrying them across the borders of Latvia, mostly to European Union countries, but not only. The chief prosecutor did not reveal any specific supply states.
The search at Staņiševskis' premises found some of the stolen goods. All night-vision equipment gifted by the U.S. hasn't been recovered. He and his wife are also accused of money laundering, a possible amount of €183,000.
Staņiševskis was detained again three years later in connection with the illicit manufacture, purchase and possession of firearms, explosives and ammunition. More than 8,000 manufactured cartridges for NATO standard weapons were also found. He has already been convicted of this crime, with a term of imprisonment of four months. It is clear from the recording of evidence that various armor plates and helmets have also been found. Where these goods came from – not known.
How was it possible for so many years?
“There is again the same story that the equipment was not accounted for, hence the free possibility of further criminal disposal,” the Chief Prosecutor said.
Commander General of the National Armed Forces (NBS) Lieutenant General Leonīds Kalniņš said: “This action was only possible because these four criminals who actually used their capabilities to carry out these activities, they certainly expected that the physical inventory commission, like in the old system, would not reveal their activities.”
The army commander also blames the slow movement of documents, both from Latvia and from partners.
The audit, carried out shortly after the crime was discovered, showed that more than €21 million of goods had not been taken under material responsibility by the Supply and Services Center. But there was an excuse for that, too.
“I promptly requested an explanation from the commander of the Center, and I was informed of explanations that justified such substance. Because at that moment a reorganization took place, and a shipment of 21 million had come in from our partners, where it had been accepted for temporary storage, but it had not been accepted under material responsibility," said Kalniņš.
Eight persons were fined following an examination of the service of the NBS, the highest of which is the Head of the Supply and Services Center of the Security Command, who has been reprimanded and transferred to another post.
At the end of 2018, the Minister of Defesce ordered the army commander to assess the responsibility of the commander of the Security Command, Kaspars Zdanovskis, at the time. Kalniņš assessed it on the basis of a report submitted by Zdanovskis himself. “There was no indication of a causal relationship with his responsibility directly for this particular case,” Kalniņš said.
On the other hand, Zdanovskis himself, asked to assess his own responsibility throughout, said that it was an interesting issue. “At that particular time, I ran a sufficiently large institution, with enough departments, and let us say that particular warehouse was under no direct supervision of me. I would also like to say that the procedures in force at the time were, in my view, acceptable – if there were no such circumstances with documentation and no criminal offence,” said the former Commander of the Security Command, now Deputy Head of the NBS Joint Chiefs of Staff Brigadier General Kaspars Zdanovskis.