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Latvia10 December 2008

Assailants threaten Riga-based investigative reporter with knife

Reporters Without Borders condemns an attack on investigative reporter Imants Liepins in a Riga park on the night of 4 December by two men who held a knife to his throat and took his laptop and USB flash drive. Aged 27, Liepins writes about organised crime for the privately-owned daily Neatkariga Rita Avize (Independent Morning Newspaper) and the Public Investigation Bureau, an NGO he helped to found.

The two men who accosted him in the park were aged about 30 and spoke Lithuanian. One of them said, “This is the end for you,” and made as if to kill him, pressing the blade of a knife against his throat. They then made off with his laptop and his USB flash drive, which contained some of his investigative work.

“They showed absolutely no interest in my wallet or other items of value,” Liepins told Reporters Without Borders during a telephone interview.

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“Threats against journalists who investigate organised crime are on the increase and are now being exported to most of the European Union’s members or candidate countries,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Journalists in Italy, Bulgaria and Croatia are now frequent targets of certain criminal organisations that clearly do not want any light shed on their clandestine activities.”

The press freedom organisation added : “We hope the Latvian authorities will conduct a thorough investigation into the attack on Liepins and identify both the perpetrators and the instigators.”

Liepins was threatened in September by a local oligarch’s bodyguard, who stopped him in the street and asked him : “You can still walk ?” He was threatened three years ago by an unidentified individual who promised to hang him.

Liepins has been investigating criminal economic activity in Europe, especially Italy and the Balkans, for the past two years. His work with the Public Investigation Bureau has led to several police enquiries into major tax fraud operations involving a dozen offshore companies. He is also investigating toxic waste trafficking between eastern Europe and Italy.

For the past six months he has above all been investigating how the war in Liberia was financed by arms and diamond trafficking. He has investigated a vast network of European figures and companies based in Italy, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Liberia which were involved in financing African wars. Now the company linked with an arms trafficking is renamed and active in real estates in Riga.




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