Jonathan Miller & Martin Adler
To Latvia, a country which has had eight governments in nine
years, since it gained independence from the Soviet Union.
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.
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.
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
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
Chairman, Parliamentary Inquiry: (Subtitles) “..the head of the state
revenue, Andris Sonciks, the Justice Minster, Valdis Birkavs, and the
Prime Minister, Andris Skele…”
Before he resigned, we put the allegations to Prime Minister
“The accusation against
you is a serious one. Are you guilty?
(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
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
But the chairman of the parliamentary inquiry disagrees. He wants
to see the politicians behind bars.
“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.”
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.
– who spent most of her life in Canada – regrets the darker side of Latvia`s
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.
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.
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
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.”
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
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
She had often been
forced into group sex with as many as eight `clients` at one time.
“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.”
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
We asked Ilza Veitnere
whether Adamssons` allegations in Parliament had surprised her.
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
(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.”
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.
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.”
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.