Cablegate: Legal Issues in the Loskutovs Case

DE RUEHRA #0811/01 3021557
O 291557Z OCT 07




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Legal issues in the Loskutovs case

Ref: RIGA 771 and previous

1. Summary: The case of Latvia's anti-corruption bureau (KNAB) chief
Aleksejs Loskutovs has engendered much discussion of various legal
issues. There are two very distinct issues at play, suspension and
dismissal. While inter-related in the politics of the case, from a
legal standpoint they are quite separate. The legality of the
Loskutov's suspension is fuzzy and depends on which law you look at
and who you ask. Dismissal is slightly clearer and is closer to the
US example of impeachment. There is a path of procedures in the law
that must be followed, and it is being adhered to. However, steps
are not defined very clearly and even participants are questioning
their roles. As the final arbiter of dismissal, the Saeima is biding
its time with more research, but with little hope of anything but a
political outcome. End Summary

2. On September 28, PM Kalvitis suspended Aleksejs Loskutovs as head
of the anti-corruption bureau (KNAB), alleging that the State
Auditor's regular investigation of the KNAB revealed financial
management irregularities. Kalvitis also began the legal process to
dismiss Loskutovs from office. Loskutovs refused to honor the
suspension and has been going to work ever since. Press accounts
have been full of discussion of legal issues of both the suspension
and proposed removal. We wanted to attempt to clarify the issues
involved in these two separate processes.

3. Suspension is the first half of the issue. Prime Minister Aigars
Kalvitis, acting as his supervisor, suspended KNAB Chief Aleksejs
Loskutovs. There is now a debate as to whether that was within
Kalvitis' power. The labor law states that Kalvitis can suspend
Loskutovs, but only if he is doing something illegal. Kalvitis
contends that he was within his rights because of irregularities in
the financial operations of the KNAB. Though the State Auditor's
office has admitted that these irregularities would not normally
meri the level of attention and discipline chosen by the Prime
Minister, no public analysis or judgment can be made because the
results of the audit are classified. Kalvitis continues to base his
decision on the audit results

4. The Prosecutor General, Janis Maizitis, formally protested
against Kalvitis' assertion that he had the legal ability to suspend
Loskutovs. Maizitis opposed Kalvitis' decision in a letter to the
Prime Minister, stating that there was no legal basis for the
action, that the KNAB violations were not substantial and Loskutovs
should not be suspended or dismissed from his post. (Note: The law
says that the Prosecutor General may suspend the chief if he is
arrested or if he is under criminal prosecution. Penalties for
violations by its director are not defined. End note.)

5. Loskutovs has legally appealed to the civil court to contest the
prime minister's decision to suspend him. He points to several
breaches of normative acts performed by the prime minister and
asserts that Kalvitis exceeded his power by suspending him.
Loskutovs also states that Kalvitis failed to observe correct
procedure when issuing the suspension decree.

6. Additionally, Loskutovs has presented an application to the
Prosecutor General's office stating that Kalvitis acted with a
conflict of interest when he suspended him. The basis for this
application is that Kalvitis' political party (People's Party) is
under investigation for campaign financing violations, and will be
subject to a hefty fine and the return of over half a million lats
(approximately one million dollars) to the Latvian government.

7. Legal experts we have spoken to say that the law on suspension is
murky. Under some of the laws that apply, Kalvitis, as Loskutovs'
supervisor, would have the power to suspend him. Under other laws,
including the law on the KNAB, it does not appear that suspension is
possible. A court ruling, and possibly multiple appeals by both
sides, would be needed to sort this out.

8. Dismissal is the second half of the issue. It is closer to what
Americans would understand as impeachment. According to the law on
the KNAB, when there are questions about the suitability of the KNAB
chief, the government forms an ad hoc committee headed by the
Prosecutor General to advise whether to dismiss. The law does not
set out what might be used as reasons to dismiss. At the same time
that Kalvitis suspended Loskutovs, he formed such a committee
pursuant to the law. Maizitis said that the committee's lack of
clear rules of procedure prevented them from making a recommendation
on the dismissal of Loskutovs, although he himself said he did not
think it was warranted. On October 16, the government chose to
support the road to dismissal with the cabinet formally recommending
to the Saeima that Loskutovs be removed from office. That is the
next step required under the law.

9. The Saeima is now tasked with voting on Loskutovs' dismissal. It
was originally expected during the week that the government
submitted their decision in favor of firing Loskutovs. However, it
has now been delayed, largely due to the political backlash against
the government's actions. According to rules of parliament, the
decision of the Saeima Legal Committee should be ready within two
weeks of receipt of the application, which would be November 2.

RIGA 00000811 002 OF 002

However, the rules do not provide any sanctions for extending the
deadline. The Saeima's legal advisor, Gunars Kusins, told us that he
believed the committee would need more time both because of the
heavy workload of the committee and the planned absence from Latvia
of key figures from whom the committee will want to hear. The
committee has decided to hear from several officials including the
Auditor General, Prosecutor General Maizitis, Prime Minister
Kalvitis and Loskutovs himself.

8. Comment: From a political standpoint and in much of the press,
the two processes are conflated. Legally the validity of the
suspension does not have any bearing on the dismissal of the KNAB
chief. The dismissal process is well underway, and it appears that
the steps to date have followed the law. Because the Saeima is the
final arbiter, it is hard to imagine anything other than a political
outcome. And Loskutov's fate will have far less to do with the
evidence than with the decision made in party rooms on how to handle
the issue. Because the laws governing the suspension are less clear,
there may very well be a situation where the suspension may be ruled
illegal, but Loskutovs will still be dismissed. In fact, it's
entirely possible that litigation over the suspension could drag out
long after the decision is taken on dismissal. End comment


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