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Monday 23.04.2018 | Name days: Jurģis, Juris, Georgs
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1:1: Lembergs admits not remembering what he says; Jurass says Strelchenok worked for people involved in oligarchs case

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU«What Lembergs is doing now is simply trolling and fooling. He still things there are people in Latvia who still believe him,» said former head of Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau’s Operative Investigations department Juris Jurass in a heated discussion with Aivars Lembergs hosted by LTV programme 1:1. Jurass especially emphasized that it is important to react and assess in which part of oligarchs case statute of limitation has yet to come into force and where it is possible to restart investigation.

The oligarch talks recorded in a room of Ridzene Hotel are already called classic in their respectable genre – a method for evaluating the quality of work performed by law enforcement institutions and a method for telling how Latvia’s elite uses state power for their own personal gain. What should officials responsible for the criminal case’s progression in court take into account? LTV programme 1:1 decided to find out.

This time the duel organized by 1:1 involved the now former head of Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau’s Operative Investigations department Juris Jurass and infamous Ventspils resident Aivars Lembergs.

The programme’s host Gundars Reders commenced the duel with a question: can the oligarch talks be considered authentic? Jurass, now a Riga City Council deputy, immediately said he does not want to view a discussion with Lembergs as a duel, saying that «my duel with comrade Lembergs ended ten years ago, the moment I organized his arrest and evidence collection. So you see – his duel is now with the court.»

«I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of those talks, considering that a number of individuals who had participated in those talks have neither denied nor confirmed it,» said Jurass, going back to the question asked by the host. When asked if it was Jurass who leaked evidence, he said a strict no, adding that such claims are voiced almost all the time. In addition, Jurass said that the person who did leak this evidence should be congratulated for allowing all of Latvia’s population to listen and read through the interesting material.

When Lembergs was given his turn to speak, he immediately accused of lies and inconsistencies in his responses made in different interviews. When asked if he had, in fact, taken part in the scandalous talks in Ridzene Hotel, Lembergs evaded the question by sarcastically saying that he has been taking part in different conversations since the age of 2. «And I don’t keep in mind the places and the things I say. There is no way for me to check if someone records conversations and whether or not the recorded footage is authentic. Respectively, if I am the one participating, am I really the one there?» Lembergs shared his thoughts.

He did confirm meeting with Ainars Slesers and the Transport Minister. He then proceeded to dance in a circle around the issue, saying that he was never mentioned by name by any of participants of the talks, rather just «AL», which, according to Aivars Lembergs, does not incriminate him the slightest. In addition, he said KNAB had never interviewed him about any talks.

Turning attention to the quality of the investigation, Reders reminded the audience about the speech Juta Strīķe made in 2011. In it, she mentioned that 11 individuals, 6 officials, 26 commercial associations were involved in the investigation of oligarchs case. In addition, there were 5 requests for assistance from foreign institutions and 42 searches performed, which should have given at least some results. In the end, however, nothing happened. And so the question was asked as to why the investigation concluded with no results.

Jurass said that the evidence that was collected during the investigation were sufficient to launch criminal prosecution and send the case to court.

«Even at the very beginning of the criminal process we faced a number of obstacles. For example, the Saeima decided not to permit a search in Ainars Slesers’ home and many other locations. And I can once again say that there was no sufficient cooperation with the prosecutor’s office.»

‘I also have to admit that KNAB’s previous leaders did all they could to impede this criminal process. I can mention Juta Strīķe’s case – she was dismissed five times! I believe it was because she was in charge of this specific criminal process,’ Jurass said.

The former investigator also said he has no doubts that Yaroslavs Strelschenoks worked in the interest of the people held suspect of criminal acts. When asked if Lembergs is among those people, Jurass said he cannot exclude such a possibility.

In response to such a claim, Lembergs said: «Of course I am the one responsible for everything. I’m not about to look for excuses». At the same time, Lembergs, who is on record of saying he has difficulty remembering the places he has been and the things he has said, demonstrated a surprisingly sharp memory for different details and dates associated with other people. «As for the so-called oligarchs case, this person right here – Juris Jurass – was the one who sent recorded footage to Strīķe as potential evidence on 17 May, 2011.»

«Jurass was the one who selected everything, no one else did. This also means he did not send all important materials to her. So the question is whether or not Mr. Jurass acted selectively and irresponsibly when performing his duties, for which he was paid a monthly wage of EUR 3,000. The answer is there are signs of corruption,» Lembergs said.

Jurass denied Lembergs’ accusations. «Mr. Lembergs clearly has no understanding of the concept and processes involved with a criminal process and what materials should be added to accompanying materials. Once all associated materials acquired during the investigation have been properly assessed, the most important documents were, indeed, selected to make up the criminal process and other materials that would later serve as evidence.»

During the programme, participants discussed a number of other matters, including illegal activities at Riga Commercial Port. Lembergs did not answer questions associated with this matter, but he did ask counter-questions, leading the conversation away from the core matter and later calling all that «foolish babble».

As usual, instead of answering questions, Lembergs proceeded to accuse journalists and the programme’s host Reders of unprofessionalism, saying that the journalist made a mistake phrasing the question.

Lembergs said he has never owned anything indirectly, «neither in secret, not openly».

Jurass mentioned he has no doubts that Lembergs does have business interests at Riga Commercial Port.

«Skele and Slesers have legalized their ownership rights in Riga Commercial Port. Determining was one of the main objectives of the criminal process. I would like to add that the criminal process was being handled without Strīķe and myself for a period of several years. I remain confident that we could have and should have proved that. The question is why KNAB and the prosecutor’s office decided to end it in the final stages. […] How could they end a process when both officials’ participation in the company was already legalized? How? I don’t understand!»

I have a question for the prosecutor general and supervisory prosecutor – how is such a thing even possible? Jurass says it is necessary to react and evaluate in which parts of the criminal process statute of limitations has yet to come into force and where it is still possible to continue the investigation.

Conversations between politicians and businessmen recorded in Ridzene hotel served as one of the main pieces of evidence in the so-called Oligarch case launched in 2011.

Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau spend years investigating this case. Unfortunately, it turned out that the tapped conversations are not enough to raise charges, so the criminal process was ended.

The criminal case became topical again after Ir magazine published a transcript of conversations possibly recorded as part of oligarch case.

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