Strike demoted in latest KNAB battle

Take note – story published 9 years ago

Seemingly endless internal strife at Latvia's dedicated anti-corruption police unit took a further step Monday with a move to demote Juta Strike, the unit's deputy director, the LETA news agency reported.

Strike, a long-serving anti-graft agent whose profile at the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) is even higher than that of her superior, director Jaroslavs Strelcenoks, has already been sacked twice by her boss, only to be reinstated at the insistence of government.

This time she faces being demoted to a junior administrative role well away from the bureau's main action and the anti-graft raids she has led in the past.

KNAB spokeswoman Laura Dusa confirmed the disciplinary action to Latvian Radio, saying Strike's demotion would be “for a period of two years and six months and beginning on July 21 this year.”

Strelcenoks has repeatedly complained that Strike has been insubordinate and that she ignores his instructions. Strike in turn has complained that Strelcenoks is out of his depth in his important role.

Trouble within the ranks of KNAB is nothing new. The agency has been in turmoil almost without a break ever since 2007 when a government attempt to sack the respected then-director Aleksejs Loskutovs backfired and contributed to the collapse of the government of Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis.

When Loskutovs was eventually dismissed after it emerged some KNAB agents had been pocketing thousands of euros seized in raids, his replacement Normunds Vilnitis proved a hapless and unpopular figure who fought his own running battle with Strike.

That time around, Strike won the day and Vilnitis was sacked by parliamentary vote in 2011, but hopes that incoming director Strelcenoks could calm the waters have proved to be over-optimistic.

Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma in May described the situation at KNAB as “absurd” and subsequently voiced the opinion that Strelcenoks should consider resigning. He responded by revealing that an investigation was underway into Straujuma's own business dealings concerning an alleged conflict of interest.  

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