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Ceturtdiena 21.06.2018 | Name days: Monvīds, Egita, Emīls

BNN summary of the week: city council restricts deputies’ rights; Norvik Bank loses assets; EP to combat terrorism funding

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUBNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Announcement; Measures; Fight; Business; Opinion; Decline; Future.

ANNOUNCEMENT: European Parliament to combat terrorism funding more intensely

To halt terrorism funding, the European Union member states should monitor suspicious transactions and charity organizations, as well as exchange information about them more actively, members of the European Parliament propose.

In order to fight terrorism more effectively, it is necessary to oppose illegal trade of goods, arms, oil, narcotics and cigarettes, MEPs mentioned in the resolution approved on Thursday, 1 March.

They emphasize that part of the funding terrorists receive is acquired in Europe thanks to mutually linked international non-profit organizations, charity organizations and funds that serve as cover for criminal activities.

MEPs ask EU Council, European Commission and European External Action Service to form an EU anti-terrorism funding intelligence platform that would improve information exchange and coordination among finance institutions. This platform could be put under Europol’s authority, as proposed by the European Parliament.

Full article here

MEASURES: ministry proposes diverting Latvenergo’s profits towards reducing MPC

Considering Latvenergo’s increased profits, Latvia’s Economy Ministry proposes diverting EUR 78.9 million towards reducing the mandatory procurement component (MPC) burden, BNN was informed by the ministry.

«I believe the profit of the state-owned company should be invested in state and society’s interests. The increased profits from Latvenergo worth EUR 78.9 million should be diverted to cover MPC costs, specifically reducing the fixed MPC fee for consumers. This measure should be reflected in consumers’ bills in the near future,» Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens told BNN.

He emphasized that Economy Ministry continues actively working and looking for ways to reduce MPC burden.

«We performed recovery of MPC commitments from TEC1 and TEC2 power stations last year. This helped us prevent a dramatic increase of MPC burden by at least 28% this year. Diversion of profits from Latvenergo concern would be a step towards reducing MPC burden for all consumers. It is a political choice – the decision on introduction of this solution is to be initiated by Economy Ministry and to be approved by the Cabinet of Ministers,» said the minister.

According to provisional data, Latvenergo worked with turnover of EUR 925,637 million last year, which is 0.6% less than it did in 2016. Latvenergo’s profits grew 2.5 times, reaching EUR 322,191 million, according to information submitted to Nasdaq Riga.

Full article here

FIGHT: Overnight discussions end with Riga City Council limiting members’ ability to ask questions

After more than eleven hours of tough talks, Riga City Council accepted amendments to the internal order that limit deputies’ ability to ask questions during meetings. The opposition voted against these changes.

Amendments provide that deputies from now on will have the right to ask no more than three questions during meetings. In addition, only one break will be allowed during viewings of matters. Rapporteurs will have the right for final statement.

Until now the right for breaks was available to every faction. On top of that, they were able to ask questions without restrictions, which is something the opposition often used.

The aforementioned amendments were proposed on Wednesday, 28 February. After nearly three hours of talks the matter was taken from the agenda. An extraordinary city council meeting was organized in the evening at 18:00.

During this meeting, members of the opposition asked for a break to discuss the proposal with leaders of other factions another day. Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs, however, said that 32 members of the city council who submitted this proposal wanted to discuss this matter immediately. The mayor said other discussions requested by the opposition would take place later.

After repeated requests before midnight, Ušakovs declared a short break to discuss this matter with coalition deputies.

After the discussion Ušakovs mentioned that ‘because of emotional tension, the coalition is not prepared to call off its proposal’. Nevertheless, he was given mandate to organize regular meetings of faction leaders to discuss the city council’s organization of work and ideas proposed by the opposition.

Juta Strīķe from the New Conservative Party proposed organizing a meeting for leaders of all six factions this night. Ušakovs supported this idea. Faction leaders agreed and the meeting continued at 01:45 a.m.

Full article here

BUSINESS: shareholder separates Russian Vjatka Bank from Norvik; puts it under his family’s control

Russian businessman Grigory Guselnikov and his family have acquired direct control over Vjatka Bank without mediation from Latvian Norvik Bank, as stated in Vjatka Bank’s announcement.

Guselnikov is also Norvik Bank’s largest shareholder.

«Grigory Guselnikov and Norvik Bank have realized a transaction with Vjatka Bank shares. As a result of this transaction, Vjatka Bank is no longer a subsidiary of Latvian Norvik Bank. As a result of this transaction, Guselnikov and his family have acquired direct control over Vjatka Bank without Norvik Bank’s mediation,» as noted in the bank’s announcement.

Vjatka Bank’s governor Sergei Tuvalkin explains this transaction was planned a long time ago.

Full article here

OPINION: Latvian parties exchange accusations about Lembergs criminal case

«I think you should be put in prison for what you have done,» as Artuss Kaimiņš from party told Inguna Sudraba during a meeting of Saeima’s Mandate, Ethics and Submissions Committee. Kaimiņš mentioned her dishonest behaviour in the parliamentary investigative committee, adding that Sudraba was in a conflict of interests.

Kaimiņš mentioned her involvement in several cases associated with Aivars Lembergs – one of the main accused in the so-called Oligarchs case. He also reminded Sudraba that concerns about her honesty are only increased by the fact that she was consulted by the lawyer of Lembergs’ son.

On Wednesday, 28 February, Saeima’s Mandate, Ethics and Submissions Committee viewed Sudraba’s application in relation to Kaimiņš’s statements, including invitation to arrest her.

The committee decided to give Kaimiņš a written warning for some of his statements, including the proposal to arrest Sudraba.

Sudraba asked the committee to assess Kaimiņš’s statements. Vitalijs Orlovs, chairman of the committee, said this would be the ninth time when members of the committee discuss complaints about Kaimiņš’s statements.

The committee agreed to issue Kaimiņš a written warning.

During discussions in the Saeima in regards to Sudraba’s dismissal from the parliamentary committee, Kaimiņš noted that the committee had accepted the final report most investigators had never read before approval. The politician invited Sudraba to pick her own punishment, adding that she should be arrested for her work in the committee. During a different meeting, he mentioned how Sudraba had converted to «Orthodoxy to get Russian voices».

Full article here

DECLINE: ABLV Bank: 300 people to lose jobs next week; construction of New Hanza Quarter disrupted

Next week, 30% or 300 people will lose their jobs in ABLV Bank, as confirmed by the bank’s chairman Ernests Bernis. Among those people are highly-qualified workers – financiers, marketing specialists and others. The bank’s representative adds that this means families that have a total of 700 children under the age of 12 will suffer lay-offs.

The credit institution currently has more than 900 employees.

«The decision to commence liquidation was made independently from us. We had to make a decision that would protect the business. This is why the decision has been made to self-liquidate. This was the toughest decision in my life. It has effectively erased the work we have done over the past 25 years,» said Bernis.

The bank’s chairman emphasized that the bank’s council agreed on 26 February meeting to perform all the necessary measures to disprove the report published by FinCEN and restore their reputation.

ABLV Bank co-owner and council chairman Olegs Fils has said «it is hard to believe what has happened». He promised the bank’s board will do all it can to supervise everything that applies to liquidator work.

Explaining why the bank decided in favour of self-liquidation, Bernis said this is the board’s way of protecting the bank from unprofessional activities. It is also emphasized that all matters regarding the bank’s future will depend on liquidators that will manage this process.

The bank’s representatives say they still have to submit the self-liquidation plan to the Finance and Capital Market Commission within the next five days. FCMC plans to review this matter within 30 days. While the evaluation and approval of liquidators continues, the bank’s board will continue working as usual.

ABLV Bank has proposed candidates for the liquidation group. Among the candidates are Elvijs Vēbers from Elvijs Vēbers un partneri sworn attorneys office, New Hanza Capital chairman Andris Kovaļčuks and board member of ABLV Corporate Finance Arvīds Kostomārovs. Liquidator candidates are to be approved by FCMC.

Full article here

FUTURE: Billion-euro pulp factory becomes «hot potato» in Estonia

Reacting to the Estonian ministries of finance and environment suggesting that a billion-euro pulp factory planned by the firm EstFor could be erected in either the city of Tartu or the town of Viljandi, the Mayor of Tartu has objected to the idea.

«The plant would be allowed to discharge [smelly exhausts] on 54 days of the year, which the people of Tartu certainly won’t agree with,» the ERR cited Tartu Mayor Urmas Klaas as stating. «Another thing is that the plant would have such an environmental impact on the water quality both of the Emajõgi river as well as Lake Peipus that we wouldn’t be able to meet the conditions set out in the water management plan».

Full article here


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Ukraine's anti-corruption court law insufficient to IMF commitments

The International Monetary Fund has commended the Ukrainian parliament for passing a law to establish an anti-corruption court and pointed to need to amend it to ensure the court can work effectively.

Opinion: they’re trying to shut us up; KPV LV is inconvenient for current government

«We are inconvenient for the current government, the established order, because for the first time a party is prepared to use facts in its rhetoric in the pre-election period. They are trying to shut us up,» said KPV LV prime minister candidate Aldis Gobzems at a press-conference after Artuss Kaimiņš was taken away by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau.

Hydro and wind power plants produced 70.5% more electricity last year

In 2017 gross energy consumption in Latvia comprised 194.9 petajoules, which is 5.5 % more than in 2016. Over the past five years, the gross energy consumption has not changed significantly. However the share of renewable energy has increased by 2.55 percentage points.

Milder penalties for the accused in digital TV case; idea’s authors get no prison sentence

Riga Regional Court has released a shortened ruling in the so-called digital television criminal case. With it, the court acquitted previously convicted former director of Latvia’s National Theatre Ojārs Rubenis. Nevertheless, some of the accused have been sentenced to fines and actual prison time.

Estonian traitor Simm ruled to serve full 12.5 years in prison

A court in Tartu has decided that the Estonian Defence Ministry ex-official Herman Simm, found guilty of treason in 2009 and sentenced to 12.5 years in jail, has to serve his full sentence, not to be released earlier.

CPCB officers detain Kaimiņš after Saeima meeting

Officers of Latvia’s Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau detained Saeima deputy Artuss Kaimiņš after the end of the parliament’s meeting.

Around 15% of Estonian 15-19-year-olds estimated to have mental illness

In Estonia, an estimated total of 20,000-40,000 adolescents, comprising 10-20% of all teenage Estonians, have been found to suffer from a mental illness and close to 3,000 children have been prescribed antidepressants.

Chief: Anti-Money Laundering Service should not submit to a single person

Anti-Money Laundering Service should not be controlled by a single person, says chief of the Control Service Ilze Znotiņa.

Saeima permits commencement of criminal process against Artuss Kaimiņš

This week Latvia’s Saeima voted in favour of the decision to detain and then perform a search in the home of Saeima member Artuss Kaimiņš from KPV LV political party.

U.S. withdraws from UN Human Rights Council voicing sharp criticism

The U.S. has withdrawn from the United Nations Human Rights Council describing the body as being politically biased and not working towards reducing human rights violations globally.

Latvian minister confirms interrogation by Lithuanian investigators

In the case regarding possible corruption in the National Blood Centre, Lithuanian services have interrogated Latvia’s Healthcare Minister Anda Čakša, as confirmed by the official.

Recreational use of marijuana legalised in Canada

Canadian Parliament has adopted a law legalising the recreational use of marijuana nationwide after medical use of the drug has been allowed since 2001. Canada is to become the second country in the world allow buying marijuana for recreational use.

Human Rights Committee: KGB documents should be made publicly accessible

Documents left from Latvian SSR KGB office are part of national document heritage and therefore should be handed over for lifetime storage and be made publicly accessible for research in Latvia’s National Archive.

Non-negotiated contracts; fictive deals: digital television introduction schemes for «mere mortals»

The criminal process revolving around digital television project’s realization in Latvia was launched 15 years ago – in 2003. And it began with a search in a company owned by Andris Šķēle. After that, the list of involved people started expanding with names like Andrejs Ēķis, Jurģis Liepnieks and others.

Doctors unjustifiably charged fees for services worth 255,000 last year

Last year, authorities found that medical institutions that provide state budget-financed healthcare services had charged fees for services worth EUR 254,994, according to data compiled by Health Inspectorate.

Budget Committee picks Swedbank economist for Bank of Latvia Council

On Tuesday, 19 June, Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee unanimously decided to submit to the Saeima a decision project regarding approval of Mārtiņš Kazāks for the post of member of the council of the Bank of Latvia, as confirmed by Saeima’s press-service.

Farmers Saeima proposes declaring state of emergency in Latvia’s agriculture sector

Farmers Saeima association has sent a letter to Latvia’s State Chancellery, Agriculture Ministry, Finance Ministry and Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments, detailing a request addressed to the Cabinet of Ministers and Saeima to declare a state of emergency in the country’s agriculture sector because of the lasting drought.

IT specialist’s lawyers appeal client's arrest in recent restaurant case

Lawyers of Edgars Štrombergs, who is the accused party in the Vairāk saules restaurant cash register data manipulation case, have appealed the security measure applied to him, as confirmed by sworn attorney Mareks Halturins.

Russian and Belarusian arms control experts hosted by Lithuania

Russian and Belarusian arms control inspectors have been hosted by Lithuania as NATO forces trained across the Baltic states and Poland in exercise Saber Strike 2018.

Latvia’s ports suffer freight volume decline in first five months of 2018

Latvian ports handled 27.072 million tonnes of freight in the first five months of this year, which is 7.5% less when compared to the same period of last year, according to data compiled by Transport Ministry.

Bicycle rickshaws in Tallinn will need safety belts from July

Seeking to regulate the provision of bicycle rickshaw services in the Estonian capital, the Tallinn City Council has is to more particular bicycle rickshaw regulations that would align the services closer to car taxis.

158 election sites to open in Riga during next Saeima elections

A total of 158 election sites are planned to be opened in Riga for this autumn’s Saeima elections, as confirmed by documents prepared by Riga City Council.

30% of Latvian residents are dissatisfied with their family’s financial state

Residents’ overall mood has declined considerably across all survey positions. Residents have become the most negative about Latvia’s economic situation – 31% of them believe it has worsened. When asked to voice their outlooks for Latvia’s economy in a year from now, 17% of respondents said it will have improved, according to results of Baltic International Bank’s latest Latvian Barometer.

Apple fined 5 million euros for customer rights violations in Australia

A court in Australia has ruled that U.S. tech firm Apple has to pay a fine of 5.7 million euros refusing to repair iPhones and iPads that had been serviced by third parties as those actions breached consumer law.

Latvian coalition still torn about attracting highly-qualified guest workers

Because of differences in opinions among ministries, Latvia’s government is unlikely to support and view the proposal to ease the issue of EU blue card to highly-qualified guest workers without appropriate higher education, says Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis.