Latvia launches hotel wiretap investigation

AP News

5/5/2011 3:32:39 PM - AP News

Latvian prosecutors opened an investigation Thursday into allegations by an influential opposition lawmaker who has accused the security services of bugging several high-end hotel rooms where foreign dignitaries have stayed.

Ainars Slesers, a former transportation minister, said he had information that Latvia's security services have listened in on the presidential and luxury suites at the Radisson Blu Ridzene hotel in downtown Riga, where numerous high-ranking foreign officials _ including U.S. congressmen _ have stayed.

Slesers, who heads the center-right Latvia's First Party/Latvia's Way union, told the 900 Seconds news program that the bugging has gone on for years and his previous appeal to get prosecutors to investigate yielded nothing.

He pointed out the Constitutional Protection Bureau, which carries out wiretaps in Latvia, and the anti-corruption bureau as the culprits.

"We have a situation where it's not the politicians running the state, but the security services," Slesers said.

The constitutional Protection Bureau refused to comment on the allegations and said that Slesers should share his information with prosecutors.

Aiga Lapina, marketing director for the Radisson hotel chain in Latvia, told the BNS news agency the hotel was unaware of any bugging and would launch its own probe.

Latvia has witnessed a string of scandalous wiretap cases in recent years involving politicians, judges and journalists, with transcripts of the taps being leaked to the media.

Slesers' phone was also tapped at one point, with one conversation incriminating him in a vote-buying scandal in 2006. A transcript ended up in the media, and Slesers was forced to resign his post as transport minister.

President Valdis Zatlers, who met with Slesers on Thursday to discuss the allegations, pledged to ask the country's top prosecutor to personally monitor the probe.