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Monday 23.10.2017 | Name days: Daina, Dainida, Dainis

Basketball club Ventspils scam - the tip of the iceberg

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Aivars Lembergs

Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs’ pride and joy – basketball club Ventspils – was used to accumulate money (known as scholarships) meant for bribing Latvian politicians and officials. All this was done via a contract with the company Toronto Line LLC. But now it turns out the scam is just the tip of the iceberg.

Court materials from the so-called “scholarship case” show that back in the autumn of 2003, Toronto Line LLC and the club Ventspils signed a contract on dealings with foreign basketball players. The documents suggest that  Toronto Line LLC was transferred millions of dollars, reports the portal Pietiek.

Payments were transferred to Toronto Line LLC by Vitale Consulting, owned by the so-called Lembergs “cashier” Laimonis Junkers, who mysteriously passed away some years ago. According to testimonies already given, the money was then withdrawn in order to bribe politicians and officials.

Back in 2004, Vitale Consulting transferred Toronto Line LLC a total of 7.29 million dollars in 12 payments. Four of the monthly payments amounted to a million, while several others ranged from 400 to 900 thousand.

Whereas, in the first five months of 2006, Vitale Consulting transferred Toronto Line LLC 2.97 million dollars. That summer the regular money flow suddenly slowed down, as the General Prosecutor’s Office started to keep a close eye on Lembergs.

Sources close to the “scholarship case” tell the portal that “fund raising” via club Ventspils and Toronto Line LLC came to an end in the second half of 2006. Back then, a number of searches were conducted in Lembergs-related addresses. Investigators found multiple evidence, including the hard drive of Gita Grasmane, the accountant of the “scholarship fund”, also known as the “5% fund”.  A list of Lembergs’ grant holders was found on her computer. Their names were coded, but in quite an obvious manner.

The true role of Vitale Consulting in Ventspils money scams was highlighted in the October of 2007, when the Liechtenstein court launched criminal proceedings against Lembergs and his son Anrijs Lembergs on money laundering. Their bank accounts in Liechtenstein were attached. The country’s Financial Intelligence Unit had discovered a money laundering scheme in which money from Ventspils transit companies travelled to a whole net of other firms to eventually reach Vitale Consulting. The company played a key role in accumulating money in the so-called “scholarship fund”.

The basketball club Ventspils’ finances mostly consist of generous donations from public companies, controlled by political parties, the Latvian Basketball Association and Ventspils transit companies. But the above allows to conclude that these amounts were just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, much bigger money travelled from Toronto Line LLC to the “scholarship fund”.

The average annual amount to reach Toronto Line LLC bank account and then “the grants” is estimated at 800 000 dollars.

Lembergs, who has been the club Ventspils’ president since 1997, has always denied the existence of such “grants”. But sources tell Pietiek that not a single payment has been transferred without Lembergs’ consent.


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