Latvia’s foreign minister resigns over private jet scandal

Latvia’s foreign minister resigns over private jet scandal
Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karins at a recent conference marking 20 years of Latvia’s membership of the European Union and Nato. /
By Linas Jegelevicius in Vilnius March 28, 2024

Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karins, formerly the country's prime minister, unexpectedly announced his resignation on March 28, citing an investigation into his use of contract flights for working trips during his time in office as PM. 

As reported by bne IntelliNews, Karins enjoyed a lavish lifestyle while in the PM office, using private jets for 32 foreign trips, most of which were return trips, in a three-year period. The total cost of the flights amounted to €613,830 from the state budget.

While opposition questioned the validity and reasons for Karins using private jets for his foreign visits, the politician of American descent kept replying that the Latvian government should consider buying a jet for its needs.

Karins announced his resignation after a meeting with Latvian Prime Minister Evika Silina, also of the New Unity party. 

Silina was once Karins' parliamentary secretary. She was not too critical of her predecessor's decisions.

“It may be hard to see why the head of government has chosen to do this or that but explaining helps. Tell us what decisions have been taken, maybe they are important for Latvia, and as a result, the costs for Latvia are adequate,“ Silina said, newswire LETA and other Latvian media outlets reported.

“I have also asked Mr. Karins himself to try again to tell why this approach has taken place. But in terms of wrongdoing … I don't see anything being violated by the law right now. I think so far there is no indication that the law has been violated and I should claim any responsibility from Mr Karins. But the need for clarification is clear," she was quoted.

Meanwhile, President of Latvia Edgars Rinkevics has said that Karins could also have flown commercial flights in some cases, for example during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For several months now, the scandal of private flights used by working delegations led by Karins has been a topic of public criticism.

The Prosecutor General's Office has launched a probe and handed the matter over to the Corruption Prevention Bureau (KNAB) for further investigation.

Karins will officially resign on April 10. He explained that this date was chosen so that the Latvian parliament, the Saeima, could approve a new foreign minister during a parliamentary sitting the next day, April 11.

The resignation also ends his quest to become Nato’s next secretary general. Karins  has said several times he is “interested” in the job.

Also, as reported by bne IntelliNews, in early March 2024, the ruling New Unity was staving off allegations of tax evasion.

A former party office employee, Normunds Orleans, told media that he, like some others, had been paid off the books, receiving his salary in envelopes. The allegations were reportedly being assessed by KNAB.