U.S. embassy slams paper over scandal story

The U.S. Embassy in Latvia has reacted strongly to a newspaper story that claims a scandalous exchange of information took place 18 months ago between Latvia’s Prosecutor General Jānis Maizītis and former Ambassador Brian E. Carlson.

The daily paper Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze reported Feb. 5 that Maizītis breached his professional ethics by writing a letter to Carlson in which he informed the ambassador about the progress of a fraud case involving the Latvian branch of the American company Procter & Gamble, which claimed it had been swindled by local firm Balodis Printing.

“Although according to law the prosecutor does not have to inform persons not involved with the criminal case about the course of a pretrial investigation,” the newspaper reported in a front page story, “Prosecutor General Jānis Maizītis in September 2003 gave detailed information to former U.S. Ambassador Brian Carlson about the case involving fraud against a subsidiary of the U.S. business Procter & Gamble.”

The embassy responded Feb. 6, issuing a press release that blasted the newspaper.

“The unfounded accusations and distorted information contained in this story raise serious questions about the journalistic integrity and political motives of Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze and the elements that control it,” the press release reads in part.

The newspaper is owned by A/S Preses nams, a company indirectly controlled by Aivars Lembergs—the well-to-do mayor of Ventspils—through the oil company Ventspils Nafta. Lembergs and Maizītis are reportedly not on the best of terms ever since the prosecutor launched an investigation into the privatization of Ventspils Nafta.

The bankrupt Balodis Printing, which was based in Bauska, is accused of defrauding Procter&Gamble Marketing Latvia of thousands of dollars. Balodis Printing was declared insolvent in 2002.

The newspaper article, and a similar story distributed by the news agency LETA, questions the prosecutor general’s ethics in providing information to a foreign government.

But the embassy in its press release said Carlson initiated the contact with Maizītis after it became clear that other Latvian officials were dragging their feet in the investigation.

“Mischaracterizing the nature of the Balodis Printing fraud case in order to launch an ill-considered attack on Prosecutor General Maizītis,” the embassy’s press release reads, “can only be seen as suggesting that there are some here in Latvia who do not want the prosecutor general to do his job, which is central to promoting the rule of law.”

Carlson was ambassador until the end of last year.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

2 thoughts on “U.S. embassy slams paper over scandal story

  1. One would think that, when a Latvian newspaper criticizes a Latvian official, a foreign embassy would have no right to try to interfere with press freedom in Latvia. It’s the kind of bullying one would expect from Russia but not from the U.S.A. But then, of course, democratic norms in the U.S.A aren’t what they used to be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *