Surmounting State Capture: Latvia's Anti-Corruption Agency Spurs Reforms, 2002-2011

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Abstract 

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.  

Gabriel Kuris drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Riga, Latvia, in June 2012. Case published October 2012.  
Keywords 
state capture
Delna
protest
Zatlers
Vilnitis
Kalvitis
Oligarch
Latvia
KNAB
Focus Area(s): 
Building a Reform Team and Staff
Anti-Corruption
Critical Tasks: 
Anti-corruption agencies
Assessing anti-corruption effectiveness
Enforcement
Establishing independence
Investigation or referral
Legal structure
Monitoring
Organization and staffing
Prevention
Core Challenge: 
Institutional traps (spoilers)
Country of Reform: 
Latvia
Type: 
Case Studies
Author: 
Gabriel Kuris