Surmounting State Capture: Latvia's Anti-Corruption Agency Spurs Reforms, 2002 - 2011
Focus: Anti-Corruption, Building a Reform Team and Staff
Topics: Organization and staffing, Assessing anti-corruption effectiveness, Prevention, Enforcement, Investigation or referral, Monitoring, Legal structure, Establishing Independence
Type: Case Studies
Author: Gabriel Kuris
Keywords: KNAB, Latvia, Oligarch, Kalvitis, Vilnitis, Zatlers, protest, Delna, state capture
Eager to demonstrate progress against corruption in order to advance its standing in the accession processes for NATO and the European Union, Latvia established the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau, known as KNAB, in 2002. Through its investigations into high-level graft and campaign finance violations, the new agency rapidly established a reputation for effectiveness. When a prime minister tried to dismiss KNAB's popular director on a flimsy pretext, citizens rallied in support of the agency, leading to the prime minister's resignation. Despite an internal scandal and leadership conflicts that undercut its credibility, KNAB launched over a hundred investigations, targeting suspects that included three of Latvia's powerful oligarchs. KNAB's work helped drive a wave of reform that reduced opportunities for high-level corruption in government, changing the laws covering asset disclosure, parliamentary immunity, legislative transparency, judicial procedures, and the financing of political campaigns.