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Cablegate: Knab Chief Dismissed

P 301434Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY RIGA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5062
INFO EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS RIGA 000386


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KCOR KJUS LG
SUBJECT: KNAB CHIEF DISMISSED

REF: RIGA 363

1. Summary: On Sunday, June 29 the Latvian Saeima (Parliament)
dismissed Anti-Corruption Bureau (KNAB) Chief Aleksejs Loskutovs in
a secret ballot vote of 52 to 40. The vote followed a four-hour
debate, dominated mostly by opposition party members. Opposition
party New Era (JL) spearheaded a protest outside the Saeima
building, where Loskutovs appeared early in the day to accept
flowers and express his thanks for the support. The result to
dismiss Loskutovs was never really in doubt. Juta Strike, a KNAB
Deputy Chief, will be the acting Chief until Andris Vilks, another
KNAB Deputy Chief, returns from vacation on July 16 to take that
role. The Saeima will determine the legal procedure for appointing a
new Chief and that decision is expected on August 2. Separately,
press reports state that Prosecutor General Maizitis has offered
Loskutovs a job. End Summary.

2. On June 29, in an extraordinary Sunday session of the Saeima,
KNAB Chief Aleksejs Loskutovs was dismissed from his position. In a
secret ballot, Saeima members voted 52 to 40 to remove him. This
session was part of a larger meeting in which, following three hours
of debate, the Saeima rejected motions of no confidence in the
Defense and Agriculture Ministers.

Protests and Debate
-------------------

3. A protest rally spearheaded by opposition party New Era (JL)
began at 8am on Sunday morning. As many as 500 people gathered in
front of the Saeima to express their thanks and give flowers to
Loskutovs. He, himself, was not allowed to address the Saeima
during the Sunday session, but he arrived at around 9:30 to accept
the flowers and thank the crowd. He said that he was touched by the
turnout, and reiterated that he was innocent. When the result of
the Saeima vote was announced, the crowd yelled for the dissolution
of Saeima, but the group was much smaller than it had been eight
hours before. Opposition MPs urged the crowd to turn out for the
August 2nd referendum to amend the Constitution to allow the public
to dismiss the Saeima through a referendum vote.

4. Opposition members spoke for most of the four-hour debate
preceding the vote. Ainars Latkovskis (JL) read a statement from
Loskutovs, "I made a commitment to do my job well and I have never
failed to fulfill that commitment." Solvita Aboltina (JL) stated
that the Saeima library had suddenly become very popular, as Saeima
members did not want to venture outside and face the protesting
crowd. Former Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis, who failed in his own
attempt to oust the KNAB Chief last fall, proclaimed angrily that
Loskutovs felt he was above the Saeima and the government, and that
"as long as the People's Party is in power," Loskutovs and others
like him "will not work for any governmental institution." Most of
the opposition focused on stating sarcastically that the coalition
had discovered a new standard of accountability in government
officials. The coalition mainly sought to justify their decision
with the findings of the Special Committee's report (reftel) and
evoked the names of Prosecutor General Maizites and Constitutional
Protection Bureau (SAB) Chief Kazocins who were members of that
Committee. The result to dismiss Loskutovs was never really in
doubt and opposition MPs gave up on some delaying tactics they
considered earlier in the day.

New Jobs
------------

5. Juta Strike, KNAB Deputy Chief has been named as the interim
Chief until July 16 when her colleague Alvis Vilks returns from
vacation and takes over the job. The Saeima has not determined the
legally correct way to appoint a new KNAB Chief, and Vilks will hold
that position until new rules are established.

6. Prosecutor General Maizitis has reportedly offered Loskutovs a
job. Neither the position, nor Loskutovs' response is known, but
the press states that Maizitis and Loskutovs will discuss the matter
during the week of July 7.

7. Comment: Loskutovs' dismissal comes as no surprise. The
opposition was never in any doubt that it would happen, but the
turnout at the protest showed the continued level of visibility and
support for the KNAB. We do not expect any further protests during
the Saeima's session on Thursday, July 3, and anticipate appointment
of the new KNAB Chief possibly on August 2. It will be interesting
to see what happens in the future when a member of the coalition is
accused of financial mismanagement, and if their colleagues hold
them to the same standard with the same penalties as they held
Loskutovs. We are inclined to doubt it. End Comment.

LARSON

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