Something Rotten in the State

Something Rotten in the State

LATVIA

Reporter/Camera:

Jonathan Miller & Martin Adler

Introduction:

To Latvia, a country which has had eight governments in nine

years, since it gained independence from the Soviet Union.

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Only last month, Prime

Minister Andris Skele was forced to stand down over a privatisation scandal.

Yet, at the time, Latvians` attention was drawn to another ongoing political

crisis, based on allegations that Skele and the Justice Minister had been

involved in a paedophile ring.

Jonathan Miller from

Britain`s Insight Television reports on how Latvia has become the Bangkok

of the Baltic.

Reporter:

Latvia – playground of the Baltic. The end of the Soviet Union brought

liberation in every walk of life.

Eight years on, these

teenagers can relish their freedom.

Others though are

exploited by a rapacious sex industry run by a criminal underworld, which

pimps and traffics boys and girls to an international clientele.

Riga`s Caka Street

is lined with clubs and bars – each offers sex for sale.

There are 15,000 prostitutes

in the capital, probably 2,000 under age.

Prostitution is legal

and highly visible.

Hidden, a growing

problem of organised child sexual abuse – with the involvement, it`s alleged,

of top politicians, allegations which remain unanswered.

In 1999, Latvia police

raided a model agency based on the second floor of this building. They

seized hundreds of hard-core porn videos, 19,000 photographs and scores

of computer disks. Of the agency`s 3,000 models, 300 were under age.

Investigations uncovered

a paedophile ring operating out of this agency. Arrests followed and journalist

started digging deeper.

This TV show (“Nedelas”

or “This Week”) first linked politicians to the paedophile ring.

It screen anonymous

interviews with six boys who claimed they`d had sex with senior unnamed

politicians.

Their statements suggested

the existence of a paedophile network reaching up into the highest levels

of business and politics.

A parliamentary inquiry

was set up to investigate. The committee chairman, Janis Adamssons, then

upped the stakes by naming – in Parliament – political leaders he said

were involved.

JANIS ADAMSSONS,

Chairman, Parliamentary Inquiry: (Subtitles) “..the head of the state

revenue, Andris Sonciks, the Justice Minster, Valdis Birkavs, and the

Prime Minister, Andris Skele…”

Reporter:

Before he resigned, we put the allegations to Prime Minister

Skele.

“The accusation against

you is a serious one. Are you guilty?

ANDRIS SKELE

(Subtitled) “Absolutely not. Of that there is no doubt. Not for me, not

for – I believe – the largest part of Latvian society. And in the sae

way as I said before, I am ready to give evidence to the investigators

and society.

But with regard

to this particular instance in Latvia, I think I speak on behalf of the

majority of society, in that it is absolutely clear that these are political

games.”

Reporter:

But the chairman of the parliamentary inquiry disagrees. He wants

to see the politicians behind bars.

JANIS ADAMSSONS:

“I must express deep regret that suspected criminals are running

our country, because in a democracy where every suspicion is aroused,

the government would have stepped down long ago.”

Reporter:

Latvia`s Memorial Day commemorates those who suffered under communism.

But people here are

still suffering. When the Soviet Union collapsed, so did Latvia`s industrial

economy – bringing inevitable unemployment and social breakdown. While

they remember the victims of an earlier era, today`s victims are forgotten.

Poverty is driving children into prostitution.

Latvia`s President

– who spent most of her life in Canada – regrets the darker side of Latvia`s

new-found freedom.

VAIRA VIKE-FREIBERGA,

LATVIAN PRESIDENT: What with Western values of freedom of choice, democracy

and openness and the free market and the goods bought and sold to the

highest bidder – well, human bodies have become a marketable commodity.

Including the bodies of under-age children.

Reporter:

There`s a telephone hotline in Riga for children in trouble.

It logs hundreds of calls every week.

But the volunteers

here at the Child Protection Agency are only able to offer counselling

over the telephone. They say their limited budget means proper care, such

as rehabilitation and therapy, can only be provided for a handful of the

most serious cases of child abuse.

The head of the agency,

Janis Gulbis, showed us a side of Riga tourists never see.

JANIS GULBIS,

Director, Child Protection Agency: (Subtitles) “The main root of this

evil paedophilia and prostitution is that many families are in abject

poverty. 86% of families with three or more children are under the poverty

level. These children end up on the streets, and become street children

– and for many of them, the main form of survival is prostitution, begging

and extortion.”

I`d like to

say that if the Parliamentary committee is not successful in finding these

paedophiles in the corridors of power, and the people covering up for

them, then nothing will change in this city and children will continue

to be under threat.”

Reporter:

We went to see for ourselves. In a Caka Street bar, this man

offered girls aged 15, 14 – even a 13-year-old – “No problem,” he said.

We tracked down his

14-year-old girl.

`Tanya` identified

the man in the bar as her pimp. She said he`d repeatedly beaten and raped

her. Last month, she slashed her wrists and cut at her throat in a serious

suicide bid.

She had often been

forced into group sex with as many as eight `clients` at one time.

`TANYA`: (Subtitles)

“I have died, I`m not alive, there`s no sense in life, no sense

at all. There`s nothing to aim for, nothing to live for, nothing. I just

live, eat, sleep, get up, pun on my make-up, go back to work.”

Reporter:

Tanya decided not to return to the bar. She spent two nights in the countryside

at the only centre available for children like her.

Latvia`s top forensic

psychologist has come back to the centre to visit some of the children

she`s treated.

We asked Ilza Veitnere

whether Adamssons` allegations in Parliament had surprised her.

ILZA VIETNERE,

Forensic Psychologist: (Subtitles) “No. I`m not surprised. The impression

one gets on seeing the cases where these children have been abused and

on seeing the people who belong to the highest ranks, makes me believe

that these people who are in top governmental levels, they gradually take

on this `super human` syndrome, this superman syndrome. That means that

they also get this feeling of being above the law.”

Reporter:

After Adamssons made his accusations in Parliament, they didn`t

talk about the victims.

The then Justice Minister,

Valdis Birkavs denounced the claims. He was incensed by what he branded

“a malicious smear campaign,” he said. “It`ll be a fight for the truth.”

We ourselves found

a boy who persistently claimed to us that he`d had sex with a cabinet

minister – we can`t say which one for legal reasons.

BOY (Subtitles):

“When I was 16, I had sexual contact for money with the Minister. Our

meeting lasted around three hours. We had sado-masochistic sex. He was

in the role of the slave, I was in the role of the master.”

Reporter:

Stabo Street – Adamssons` Parliamentary inquiry is meeting in

Riga`s former KGB headquarters.

Adamssons` own KGB

past has been trawled up. He dismissed this as a bid to silence him and

sabotage his inquiry.

JANIS ADAMSSONS:

(Subtitles) “Members of the committee have met with threats during

the course of their work. Committee members have been threatened, blackmailed.

Threats and death threats were levelled against me and against committee

members, against members of my family and against committee members` families.”

Reporter:

Witnesses too have been threatened and Latvian journalists were

too afraid to talk about the inquiry on camera.

This is Riga`s juvenile

prison. And while police investigated her claims, Tanya has been moved

here for her own protection.

There`s nowhere else

to go. Latvia simply doesn`t have the skilled psychotherapists needed

to deal with the numbers of abused children.

Since this was filmed,

Tanya has tried to commit suicide a second time. She is now under sedation

in a Riga hospital, and is no nearer to receiving any counselling.

But for the girls

out on Caka Street, it`s still business as usual.

We watched as undercover

police moved in on the bar where Tanya was working. Such raids are all

too rare. The vice-squad has four members.

Above the bar, three

pimps, 15 prostitutes and two clients have been rounded up. Three of the

girls are under-age.

A 15-year-old girl

lies drugged on the floor.

The man on the right

is the man we`d met at the bar, the man who Tanya says beat and raped

her. He could now face 20 years in prison.

The image of this

country has been tarnished by its notoriety as a child-sex destination.

With Latvia anxious

to join the European Union, the President recognises the crisis, but fears

it`s become a political witch-hunt.

PRESIDENT

VAIRA VIKE-FREIBERGA: (Subtitles) “I really hope that we will not include

now a new term of paedophile, as a way of discrediting our opponents and

simply by attaching that label to anybody`s name, ruining them for ever.

That`s really not acceptable in a democratic society.”

Reporter:

In this world of smoke and mirrors, the politicians` guilt is

hard to assess, but while their perverted abuse of power remains in question,

the widespread abuse of children is not.