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Normund Vilnitis: Latvian elite has no honour codex

Normunds Vilnitis/LETA.
Activity of former head of KNAB (Corruption prevention and combating bureau) Normunds Vilnitis in due time was perceived positively by Latvian society. He was an experienced policeman, participated in disclosing many criminal cases. But, after difficulties with his deputy Juta Strike, Vilnitis was dismissed. After several years of silence Normunds Vilnitis decided to disclose real reasons of his dismissal as well as tragic situation in Latvian intelligent services. Former head gave an open-hearted interview to Latvian edition of Playboy. His words became real sensation for Latvian society. On the result of his expressions KNAB even plans to initiate service check.

What are you doing now?
I’m doing business – providing security and law consultations.

What does it mean?
I’m consulting big companies, including international ones, about internal and external security matters.

Telling, how to escape from KNAB and similar institutions?
(Laughing). No. It means mainly a personnel management – collecting information about persons. Both via cooperation with detectives and public information.

Send them all to hell. I have served more than 20 years to my country. And what have I received for it? They’ve just threw mud at me.

Were there situations that you refused the cooperation proposal from potential client?
Yes. We are not cooperating with persons who, as we know, could be connected with criminal world.

Who are your business partners?
Former colleagues and confederates. I don’t want to boot them, as long as one of our services is to nominate employees at companies to be able to identify problems from the inside.

This interview takes place a day after second dismissal of Juta Strike. What will be the end of it all?
I think that there will be no end till elections. No one will be allowed to do anything. Strike will be back and from positions of power politicians will do everything to hold obedient and good people for power.

Strike is such obedient person?
Of course. But of course. Evil oligarch’s protégé, that is me – is expelled; two and a half years passed from that moment already, and I still don’t see any big case. When “Unity” was in opposition it had been spoken about political corruption, about corruption in the higher echelons of power, but now – nothing. If someone wants to tell me that something has changed in Latvia, I will categorically refuse it. Corruption has increased over last years; smuggling remained at the same level at best, money laundering too. Everything goes on, but no one is speaking or screaming loudly about it. (Laughed). And we are going back to bureau and persons about who the question was, old militians had a saying: what we cannot overcome, we should head. And this story is here – all these funny supporting letters from persons, who should be directly supervised by Strike. Customs employees, financial police – here is the risk group that should be controlled the most. Moreover, I remember well that Strike was furiously speaking that these structures are the most corrupted and shall be reorganized immediately. But the result was that not the structure, but heading persons were changed, and persons, accepted by certain lady, and, it turned out that everything is ok.

May be they are the most non-bribable persons?
(Laughing for a while) It seems like yes. Everything changes regarding is the head of institution loyal or not loyal.

Then it turns out that this Strike holds half a state in her hands.
We are not talking about Strike only. She is just one of the leaders in group, ensuring safety of one political force – both internal and external. Internal - by helping to combat disobedient ones in institution itself, external – “cleaning a field” at strategic positions. But these are not political interest, I would say economic interest.

But what benefit Strike has from all that? She is not considered to be a millionaire, why would she do that?
(breathed out). Not all millionaires are in millionaires list. But in this case we are speaking about the power, what person gets in return. Here we have to talk about unhealthy need for power. This group of persons got the power and could influence many procedures – both in politics and criminal world.

What is the group Strike is in?
It is the group of people who are involved in procurements. They work at different institutions and communicating they could “solve questions” as they say. And they are really doing it. Staff, created at KNAB also indicates much – only about 20 percent thereof are really working. Others are employed with simple intention – people who has relatives takes high positions at the court, prosecutor’s office, border guard service etc. The best ones are not nominated via competition; everything is done with specific purpose and intention. She is improving power. But enough about that Strike.

No, no, let’s go on. Does Strike proclaims ideology by herself or there are somebody above her?
There is somebody above her; she is not proclaiming any ideology. After dismissal she said that it would be okay with her to work with Satan, for good purposes.

I would say that she is already working with Satan, but the question is to whom these purposes are good and to whom they are bad. And are these purposes good for our country.

May be she believes that these purposes are good?
I think that she doesn’t. I remember what she was telling me all the time: if you touch me, people from American embassy will come and show you.

She really said it like that?
Yes, directly! This support reached the highest culmination when Cristine Todd Bailey was an ambassador. When Judith Gardner was an ambassador, this mystical support disappeared. As long as she knew very well what is going on here.

Good. And what interest is behind Strike?
I don’t need to name specific surnames. I have an idea, and I know. But these persons did nothing good to the state.

May you are able to name its area at least?
Smuggling, VAT returning, money laundering, public procurements, construction and subordinated all others. Areas in which money could be earned are very limited and connected.

Who is Jaroslav Strelchonok in this case? Whom is he representing?
He tries to be a man of principle. He won’t be able to be like this till the end, because system persisted for years. Strike is just one of – ideological leader of bureau. She always was able to open any door and say: I have managed it with Prime Minister. And if people see that entire she said turns real, belief appears/

Maybe you could describe your common relations when you were ruling KNAB?
She is a political protégé, intrigante and liar. That is how I could describe her. She is lying to everybody and lives the principle that friends could be discarded and buried someday. If we’ll follow her career from Security police times…

You mean her former chief Didzis Shmitinsh?
Not only. Friendship will go on till the moment when she understands that she has got everything she wanted from that person. Than this friend is discarded and buried.

But at the beginning you had good relations; eye-witnesses said that you had common dinners routinely.
It was the beginning. These exact common dinners at café made me think about that role of Joan of Arc is just a role for the first time. Such a funny example: there are complex dinner with soup, second course and kefir; we was walking, talking and then – she took tomato juice instead of kefir, that is outside of complex dinner and costs specific price, but at the cashier’s desk she said it is a red kefir and she went away without paying. These were the first signals indicating person’s backbone and raised questions on what this combater is at international level? There are no international level and combater.


In the beginning, relations of Vilnitis and Strike was good, but after that it worsened irreversibly. Vilnitis names a moment when he asked her to examine some allegedly corrupt minister of Valdis Dombrovsky’s (Unity) government. There they mean at the following level – you are on one side or another side, you don’t act neutrally how the official should.

What was the moment when your relations worsened?
Final breakout of relations was… when there was specific information about allegedly corrupt minister of Valdis Dombrovsky’s government. This information was given to Strike to work with, but she did nothing.

Who was this minister?
I won’t tell it. This information is classified, but documented with all resolutions. I will not lie, it is true. And then I understood that she is not the person she likes others to believe she is.

Why you did nothing?
I was unable to do anything. I was looking for support at one place, second, third… Prosecutor’s office, law-enforcement agencies. But I failed to find it. Then I understood that I’m all alone and I’m trying to get to the place I could never get to.
I was trying to push them to do their job, but both deputies turned against me.

You have even dismissed Alvis Vilks.
Yes. Other would be convicted in his place. The matter was on implementation of integrated program, when money is not spent on specific purpose, but is written off. I’d say it like that.

What does it mean - written off?
Work is not done, but money is written off. No system – no money.

Why money giver raised no noise?
You should ask Ministry of Finance about it. Then Ilze Vinkele was Parliamentary secretary of Ministry of Finance. I had two letters – in first she has written that violations are very severe, but when it was discovered that guilty is Vilks, I received second one that violations are not severe and you may pay no attention.
I got to know that I should represent, sit, don’t disturb no one would tell me anything after all.

Was Vilks a good specialist?
He was exhausted, no initiative from him. But he was a good bureaucrat, good official.

What were you thinking about Strike going to KNAB?
I believed that she really wants to combat corruption.

Is it okay that KNAB has a trade union?
It is stupid, to whom you may even tell about it… It is a subject of operative actions and they have a trade union…

Head of KNAB is really unable to know what is going on at bureau?
Yes, it is true.

If, e.g. your employees will arrest some official, you will know about it only by fact?
When I came to bureau I have created an analytic and improved interior security. After my dismissal first one was liquidated, second one nominated persons imitating work. Think about it – modern anti-corruption institution works without analytics. It is not normal! What kind of corruption combating are we talking about?

However, if someone is being searched, are you aware beforehand?
In the beginning, I was, then, after a war against oligarchs was declared, I wasn’t aware.

Why had you applied at contest to the position of head of KNAB at all?
When I’ve applied, I thought that I won’t get there. It was some kind of competition. I was a lecturer in Police academy for 5 years and I wanted something new, instead of routine. Since 1993 I was an operative employee all the time. I wanted it. And, after reading requirements I established that everything there corresponds with my experience.

Oligarchs didn’t tell go and apply?
Of course. As you remember, oligarch’s case began then.

You were supporting this case?
My position always was that I will be neutral in any situation and I will act within the law. Of course, I was aware of the case. Questions raised when things were done no law prescribes. Then our differences in opinion begun.

For example?
There are lot of examples. When I’ve established violations I was talking about them. And the answer was: you are on Lemberg, Shlesers and Shkele’s side. They think that you are on any side, not working neutrally as an official should.

But was there a ground for oligarch’s case?
I said: if there is a corpus delicti everything should go its way. This case was in prosecutor’s office beforehand for a long time, I was talking with high-ranking prosecutors and about two months before the events they had told me that there is nothing. Why something appeared later? Maybe because of Saeima elections approached. That is why I have a question: how could prosecutor’s office change its opinion? How could it be that one day there is no corpus delicti and the next day it already appears? If there was something real, prosecutions would be already.

Who is an average bribe taker?
He is very different, it is impossible to draw a common portrait. There is a corruption in private sector, banking sphere, where it is impossible to look in. State doesn’t need it; bureau was created as political police. If you need to punish some official comes KNAB and birches.
The biggest problem is a lack of loud cases. If we were able to raise Latvenergo case which is now being pushed aside, think about how bureau is able to work if it would work in full capacity! If from bureau would be created on department with persons, who are really working, they could achieve twice as many as this big amount of workers now.

What is the average motive of bribe taker?
First of all economic situation in the state should be talked about. One part is not trying to change something and do something in business, but chooses the easy way – stealing state money. One and the same construction companies receive procurements – it happened before it is happening now. People’s party could pale before what happens now. Bribe takers, smugglers and money launderers are ruling the state, not legally elected officials.

It means that it is impossible to combat corruption?
It means that there is a lack of political will.

Did you have this will?
I had at the moment. I wanted to change something, create a powerful service. But they failed to allow me. I still could respond in any word at my bureau developing concept.

Were there cases, when you were working with a person, had intention to arrest him, but he changed his mind and failed to take this bribe?
I don’t remember that kind of situations at KNAB. Mostly working starts on persons, who could allegedly do it. We must speak about provocative element here, in what scale it is used. Provocations should be proportionate – you cannot provoke a person for three years in a row, telling him: take, take, take!

Were there such situations?
There were long workings, unclear for me and at the end he failed to take, but then another criminal offence was discovered.

Main part of information comes from eavesdropping of phone conversations?
There are different methods. One of them is eavesdropping.

Is it true that everyone is being wiretapped?
I would say it like this: persons they are interested in are being wiretapped.

Is it easy to wiretap – KNAB employee is interested in someone and he is eavesdropping?
It is really easy, yes. Even without permit of prosecutor’s office and court, it is allowed to eavesdrop anyone for 24 hours. Any journalist as well.

And it really happens?
Yes, it does. Let’s not be naïve.

So, if an investigator has suspicions that his wife has a lover, he could wiretap him easily?
Exactly. I have established similar situation in some operative case at KNAB – there was a quarrel between already divorced wife and husband. There was a throughout working. When I began to ask questions, involved person flushed, but when I was trying to speak at prosecutor’s office, they told me to come down.

What are technical possibilities? We all have phones, so, theoretically there is a possibility that someone is watching us online in some bureau right now?
Yes, easily.

What we should do so they wouldn’t watch?
You have to say things not to feel uneasy about afterwards. I have that belief.
re people talking with more caution now?
Yes. People are afraid.

A joke that a person at porno site could perceive his home video, which was filmed via his phone and uploaded to the internet, is not a joke, right?
Yes, it is not a joke. It is very easy to do.

Why prisons are not full of blackguards then, if it is so easy? Why they are drinking Champaign?
Because those, who are against it are expelled. Elite has its own position and it expels all others like sheep. If someone loses his way he is given to wolves and expelled.

So, there is an elite in Latvia?

Has it changed recently?
No, it hasn’t. It is a joke if someone would lose an influence. This group of people hasn’t changed; the other question is that someone is expelled from public stage.

Does old oligarchs and Unity are in these elite also?
(Thinks for a while). Yes, yes. I want to say so. You know, my reorganization model of KNAB with regional branches and work in whole Latvia, employees at boundary was not needed to anyone. To no one from this elite.

Does Latvian elite has some honour codex?
I think no. Codex is only one – a roll of money to re-count. There is an elite in Latvia but no political parties. There are clubs of relatives, sexual and economic interest.

First sentence that then Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (Unity) said to him after nomination to the position of chief of KNAB was: it is not allowed to touch Juta Strike and Alvis Vilks, Vilnitis remembers.

Are there lots of drugs in Latvia?
Yes, lots of it. And the tendency is that this amount increases. I was partying with alcohol in my youth ages; nowadays young people are partying with drugs. And it is bad.

Could you differentiate a drug addict by sight?
Yes I can. Looking at his behavior you could establish a heroin addict and entrepreneur who likes cocaine and pot smoker.

Do we need to legalize marihuana in Latvia?
No, we don’t. It is not Latvian tradition and culture. In states where it Is a part of national culture you may talk about it.

What are ways of drugs to get to Latvia?
Heroin mostly “comes” here from Lithuania, where it comes from Russia, but the initial point is Afghanistan and Pakistan. After passing a border another null is being added to the price Cocaine mostly comes from Venezuela and other Latin America states. Only couriers changes – some of them are put behind bars, others replace them. Hemp-seeds are being cultivated in green-houses here in Latvia.

Former chief of KNAB assumes that his phone conversations are being eavesdropped from time to time. It is very easy to do it in Latvia.

Was KNAB hard for you as a person lately?
It was very hard. One year was like three there. I feel much better without all the stress now. I regret that I have left honestly. I failed to change the system, but I ruined my health.

P.S. International media wasn’t writing very often on situation at KNAB and scandals around this intelligent service. Last loud article, in which they were trying to examine the jumble taking place in KNAB, was published in Austrian newspaper “Wienner Zeitung”. And even this article came out with scandal. Latvian journalist Inga Springe without any evidences stated to Austrian issue that former head of KNAB Normund Vilnitis allegedly dismissed because bureau employees allegedly misappropriated funds. Latviannews.lv
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