Hot Shot!

Financial Adviser

"Personally, I am in favour of a currency board arrangement for the lat."

Where own goals are concerned, there are generally two types: the unfortunate goal-mouth mix-up and the hilarious, horrible howler.

With that in mind, the decision to lock up smalltown college lecturer Dmitrijs Smirnovs for daring to doubt the mighty lat is looking increasingly like an own goal hit on the volley by means of a bicycle kick, struck somewhere near the half way line.

What was no doubt a complaint by some financial apparatchik designed to teach Smirnovs to keep his trap shut has instead turned Latvia into an international laughing stock and in the process helped thousands or possibly millions of people ponder the devaluation of a currency most of them hadn’t even heard of before.

Smirnovs took part in a discussion in the pages of regional newspaper Ventas Balss on October 2 in which he was critical of Latvian central bank policy and advised savers to convert their lats into US dollars.

Rubbish advice perhaps, but hardly worth the midnight knock.

As a result of his words, the economics expert was detained by state security police for two days and remains under investigation.

The case has already made the front page of the Wall Street Journal and every major newswire.

By Friday night, Smirnovs could be heard speaking on the BBC World Service.

As the state-sponsored broadcaster’s target audience these days consists of football fans in sub-Saharan Africa, it’s a fair bet that the removal of the currency peg from the lat is now being discussed in bars across the continent along with why Adebayor couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo and when David Beckham will sign for Soweto United in order to get some publicity.

But the best may yet be to come.

When

If the lat does devalue, Smirnovs could be back in the news if he takes the government to court for wrongful arrest.

Meanwhile all the people who said it would never happen will have to be rounded up and charged with “spreading false information about the stability of the Latvian financial system” – provided there still is a financial system to spread rumours about.

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