Saturday, November 07, 2009

Limitless depravity -- Childrens' Hospital plundered

Latvia's Bureau to Prevent and Combat Corruption (KNAB) has arrested two officials of the Children's Clinical University Hospital (Children's Hospital) and three other persons in Riga for the embezzlement of at least LVL 700 000 in funds (more than USD 1.4 million) earmarked for renovations and improvements at the facility. Those arrested include a member of the hospital board. KNAB officers seized the funds, including LVL 500 000 in cash, in a series of raids and searches around Latvia.
The Children's Hospital has been the object of a number of charitable activities to raise funds for renovating its wards, and, while renovations have been made, it is reasonable to assume that some donated funds were also embezzled or used for bribes and kickbacks.
One of those arrested, Aivars Lisenko, a top administrator at the hospital, is also a member of and contributor to the Peoples' Party (Tautas Partija/TP), a member of the ruling coalition. With polls showing support for the TP well below 2 % ( 5 % is needed to be seated in the Parliament or Saeima), the party plans to bring back former Prime Minister Andris Šķēle in next year's elections. TP party officials are rushing to deny they knew anything of Lisenko's criminal activities, although his legally required state employee income declaration should have raised eyebrows -- he had huge cash and bank savings and had privately lent someone LVL 208 000. With official income of LVL 27 000 per year, it is hard to see how this accumulated money came from legitimate sources.
News of the Childrens' Hospital scandal has caused the usual temporary wave of public outrage. It remains to be seen if the accused will be convicted and what other similar scandals the KNAB will uncover in coming months. It appears that this kind of corruption, no matter how depraved, is endemic to Latvia.


Baron Tornakalns said...

Well said Juris - "limitless depravity" indeed.
One has to wonder what sort of person sets out to systematically defraud a children's hopsital over a long period of time, which seems to be the basis of the allegations in this case.
Let's hope any evidence is solid enough to stick and that this is the first of many examples proving the new KNAB boss isn't just sitting on his thumb.
And let's also hope people finally say enough is enough as far as the oligarchs are concerned.
Skele is part of the problem, not part of the solution, though of course I'm sure he is totally blameless in this particular case - a point he was quick to make in a press release long on "this is a smear campaign against me" and surprisingly short on "people who steal from sick kids are scum."

bnr said...

its time to turn Latvia into a television series - it could rival any of them - the embezzling theatre directors, the public face of the child hospital hiding cash in his house -stay tuned for next week!

Anonymous said...

Shall we blame that on "50 years of totalitarian planned economy" as well??? LOL

Kreilis said...

The only hope I have is that our voters are not that short-minded. The election's next year. They should remember this, so that it is not enough to stick Šķēle's face on every flat surface to get the "People" Party reelected.

However, I'm afraid at the same time that my hope is unrealistic.

Skallagrimson said...

I lived in Latvia for 12 years and recently left. I loved the country and people, but it was apparent that living 'normally' was not going to happen, in my lifetime (I'm not a 30 something). The complete lack of integrity within the power structure—government and big business—combined with endless greed is strangling those who want what's best for the country. Honestly I thought I'd seen and lived through the lowest of human behavior, prior to leaving. But this article makes me physically ill. Stealing from sick children? Unbelievable. I'm glad you and a few others are still there to keep the news coming, since I've also lost all respect for the Latvian new media, as well.