Jurģis Liepnieks

I think corruption experts will agree – one of the signs of corruption is highly peculiar, unusual decision-making by state institutions, teetering on the brink of legality, especially when a particular decision is very favourable to, say, one of the country’s richest individuals.

Immediately when the U.S. government, represented by FinCEN, imposed sanctions upon the bank leading to its collapse, ABLV shareholders voiced the version that they had been slandered. This was soon followed by an application that led to State Police chief Ints Ķuzis confirming in August that the Central Criminal Police Department of the State Police had, following the application of ABLV, which was undergoing liquidation, initiated a criminal case concerning the provision of knowingly false information about the situation with the finance sector in Latvia.

The ABLV version is this: the president of the Bank of Latvia, motivated either by personal distaste or by personal gain (we understand now that, some time later, the shareholders of ABLV Bank recalled that a bribe had been solicited from them – no mention of which is made in their application to the police), said something untrue to U.S. financial sector watchdogs (evidently, SAID is the correct term here, since if the information is untrue, no documents would exist to confirm the false claims) – and, having received this unofficial oral account, the regulator made no effort to verify it or gather more data from its sources, believing Rimšēvičs at his word and imposing sanctions upon ABLV Bank.

It is difficult for me to imagine how Jēkabs Straume, a long-time counterintelligence officer, could have been so dumb as not to know or even imagine how serious U.S. government institutions, such as the FinCEN, actually operate – how the reports made by FinCEN are adopted and coordinated with other U.S. government agencies, and how long the bureaucratic path towards publishing such information really is. Not to mention the methods being used, and the seriousness with which the information is collected, analysed, verified, and processed.

But if Straume is aware of this, how could he voice a version indicating a direct causal link between (sic!) Rimšēvičs’ allegedly false statements, which led to the FinCEN report, and ultimately caused major losses for the ABLV shareholders?

Yet this is the exact causal chain stated in the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) decision on declaring Ilmārs Rimšēvičs a suspect. What makes it useful to the ABLV shareholders is obvious. If this is what really happened – the bank’s shareholders are pure and impeccable, never engaged in any money laundering, provided no bribes, and were simply slandered – then either the state or the central bank of Latvia would be accountable for the losses caused to their reputation and business.

Knowing the appetite of the ABLV shareholders (for a single tweet on microblogging website Twitter calling Oļegs Fiļs “sugardaddy”, his new girlfriend wants compensation in the amount of 1000 euros), they will surely claim at least a billion in damages from Latvia or the Bank of Latvia for what led to the bank’s closure. If the president of the Bank of Latvia is convicted of acts that leading to such results, the shareholders of ABLV Bank will certainly be entitled to their claim because the criminal proceedings will have already proven everything they need.

In a tragicomic way, evidence for the ABLV claim on the Republic of Latvia will, in this case, have been gathered by the state itself (as KNAB), using state funds.

Not too complicated a scheme. It is clear that, with a billion on the line, one could bankroll the costs of some campaigning – a million for the right information, and so forth. One may take some spending here and there; this decision in Rimšēvičs’ second case by KNAB makes us cast a fresh look on Rimšēvičs’ first, major criminal case – what evidence is presented there, in what way the evidence was obtained, how it appeared at that exact time, why the witnesses suddenly, years after the alleged events, recall having given a bribe disguised as a hunting trip, and why we hear talks lifted from stale operational investigations. There are a lot of questions to be asked there.

Let us keep in mind that Rimšēvičs’ own version immediately after the arrest was that this had been an operation organised by a bank. The investigation of Rimšēvičs in the first criminal case began several days following the FinCen report on ABLV Banka, and a few days after than he was detained in a very public way. At the time, nobody believed Rimšēvičs, but we did not know a lot about it at the time. After all, it happened before the murder of Mārtiņš Bunkus, and let’s be frank – we knew nothing about the ABLV shareholders then (we still know very little today).

Interestingly, the criminal case of Rimšēvičs is not the only strange-smelling criminal procedure initiated and encouraged by the shareholders of ABLV Bank.

Oļegs Fiļs – the same man whose girlfriend was distraught about him being called sugardaddy on Twitter, the man who demanded his ex-wife return his saucepans and an iron – has had the State Police initiate criminal proceedings against his former wife Santa Bernāla (formerly Zāmuele). The case revolves around an agreement signed personally by himself, a professional banker, to lend funds to his wife’s business (the loan is due in 2027) – he suddenly remembered the wife allegedly promising collateral for this loan but later withholding it, which he considers to be criminal fraud, and for which he demands criminal prosecution.

Normally, these bald-faced claims of bribe solicitation (as in the case of Rimšēvičs), or promises of collateral (as in the case of Bernāla), would need to be supported by some evidence for a criminal case to even be considered.

But I’m going to give you three tries – go ahead, guess whether the cases are furnished with such evidence or not! Anyone who has contact with police in Latvia knows that no officer is eager to initiate hopeless, dubious cases. They have enough real work on their hands. Yet somehow the ABLV shareholders are the exception. Their applications turn into criminal cases against people they dislike with stunning efficiency. In Bernāla’s case, the debt obligations described in the declarations by the initiating police officer and his wife are also of note – although I hope this is already being handled by the internal security office of the police.

Against this background, KNAB’s activity in the case of Rimšēvičs is something unusual. KNAB’s action indicates a belief that either the U.S. government has acted on Rimšēvičs’ claims to commit what KNAB considers a crime (after all, the so-called false information about the financial sector in Latvia had been disseminated by FinCEN, not by Rimšēvičs); or that FinCEN is incompetent, duped by an allegedly corrupt, evil Latvian official into uncritical acceptance of something he stated unofficially, with no verification, successfully bypassing the institution’s internal procedures, and ultimately publishing a notice that would prove devastating to ABLV – based on nothing but Rimšēvičs’ false information.

If KNAB and ABLV are saying the truth, we will soon see the entire executive team of FinCEN hand in their resignations or get fired, for the new FinCEN management to officially apologise to the ABLV shareholders, and for Latvia (or perhaps America itself) to pay the bank’s shareholders fair compensation for losses to business and reputation (the reputation aspect, of course would not apply to the sugardaddy, who has been undermining his own reputation better than anyone else).

So the question is – does KNAB employ idiots who blindly believe the yarns spun by ABLV about FinCEN trusting Rimšēvičs’ statements at face value, and going so far as to impose sanctions against ABLV? Or is KNAB itself corrupt, taking care of ABLV bank’s tantrums, revenge and business plans in exchange for money?

A better question still – which security institution in Latvia could test these suspicions and catch the bribers, both givers and takers, red-handed?

I’m afraid we don’t have one here in Latvia.


Author: Jurģis Liepnieks

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