When a nephew of Uzbekistan's president bought two hotels in the Latvian capital of Riga, he couldn’t have foreseen that the acquisition would turn into something like the plot of a thriller, reminiscent of the early 1990s of eastern European capitalism, featuring attempted murder, a bribed judge and accusations of larceny. Like a detective novel, this saga shines a light on the darker corners of the Latvian legal system — from the police to the courts.
Children of Uzbekistan's elite has bought property in Latvia, used country to give birth to first-family child and allegedly used local banks to handle millions of dollars in bribes. While more than 1,500 Uzbeks have taken advantage of the country’s controversial “golden visa” program, it remains a silent and closed community.
Former KGB officer who after collapse of USSR became a millionaire as an intermediary in Russian gas trade to Latvia appears to be instrumental in helping high-ranking Uzbek security officials to gain a second base in Latvia.
Will pressure from the United States, fear of losing the last dollar correspondent account and an impending vote on admission into the OECD finally force Latvia to curb the laundering of dirty money for shady figures from the former Soviet Union via Latvia’s non-resident banks?
A fight for “traditional values” has become another battlefield in the confrontation between Russia and the West. Armed with family values, mixed in with the anti-western propaganda, the Kremlin attracts supporters who are not natural allies. Some are even ideological opponents.
After Russian president's flawed elections in 2012, annexation of Crimea and flaring up of Ukraine - Latvia's "golden visa" program experienced a flood of applications from the both countries. Now the country is torn between the wish to make money and fear of Russia. Re:Baltica examines 315 most expensive property deals during last year to find out who is running away from Putin's Russia.
The Baltic countries has the largest prisoners population in the European Union. They have twice as much prisoners as an EU average. Society believes that locking them up serves them right and does not realize that the prison system with the violence and the Soviet-era traditions is a crime academy, not a place of reformation.
While Latvia is planning to introduce a more “just'' health care reform, which will leave thousands outside the health system, Re:Baltica's research shows that a more fair distribution of financing could improve public health already now. That's not happened for years because of opposition from a few doctors and a business lobby.
In January 2014 Latvian and U.S. students participated in a joint project at Riga's soup kitchens to try to understand for which groups in the Latvian capital the crisis remains far from over. These clips tell the stories of 31 Rigans.
Latvians are lazy and prefer to live off welfare benefits. To stay profitable, businesses must bring in workers from other countries. This is the rhetoric one frequently hears from Latvian politicians and businessmen. Re:Baltica undertook the task of clarifying why, given that the unemployment level is still high, businesses cannot find low-skilled workers. To understand the situation, Re:Baltica went out to work in a fish factory and a supermarket.
They travel abroad to earn easy money, but pay with something more valuable- their freedom. In some cases with their lives. Each year about 100 drug couriers from the Baltic states are arrested in foreign countries. This number doubled during the economic crisis. Why did they do this? And what do they think about, sitting in prisons thousands of kilometres from home?
In November 2011 two large Baltic banks collapsed - Latvijas Krājbanka and Snoras bank in Lithuania. It turned out that the owner of the banks, Russian millionaire Vladimir Antonov, gambled with depositor money to fuel his business ambitions and desire for a luxurious lifestyle. Re:Baltica investigated how Antonov pumped out the money from the banks, and why banking regulators didn’t notice what he was doing.
In 2007, President Vladimir Putin established the Russkiy Mir foundation. Designed to promote Russian culture abroad, the foundation prides itself on being open. But Re:Baltica found consistent lack of transparency in the foundation's activities in the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Russkiy Mir doesn’t disclose all organizations it funds and what amounts were granted to which organizations. Who got this funding and how was it used? Explore this first cross-border investigation in the Baltics to find out.