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Tuesday 21.11.2017 | Name days: Andis, Zeltīte

Business of Straujuma’s son could create a conflict of interests

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUIf Economy Minister Daniels Pavļuts does not end up in the new government and Economy Ministry returns to its green energy subsidies policy, businesses of sponsors that support influential political parties could draw a second breath.

This includes the business of once the largest bio-ethanol producer and generous sponsor of Unity Donats Vaitaitis, whose company had appointed the son of Laidota Straujuma – Ģirts Straujums – to the Board last summer. This could mean a conflict of interests for Straujuma if Pavļuts is not invited to remain in the government, Pietiek writes.

The day when Unity officially proposed Straujuma as its official PM candidate she told Pietiek that she had nothing to do with any talks with Vaitaitis in regard to any support to his business. She added that the fact her son was appointed to the Board of a green energy producer company was solely because of his personal achievements, not his mother’s political influence.

‘I deny any and all claims regarding possible influence on me about state subsidies. My son’s relation to the aforementioned person is notable solely because of his duties. There were no negotiations with me in regard to any promises of state support. I completely deny any and all claims about possible promised state support for specific private businessmen. I have been working in the government for a long time and I understand very well that there can be no budging toward the lobbying of private interests,’ – she told Pietiek.

It is known, however, that the aforementioned businessman has had contact with other politicians involved in the formation of the new government.

The sudden promotion of Ģirts Straujums could be a logical explanation for attempts to manipulate certain political processes. It seems that Straujuma does not want to comment the rumours that have been circulating behind the scenes. Rumours that claim Pavļuts will need to leave his post.

People who know Straujuma do not believe the PM candidate could work in someone else’s interests. This, however, does not exclude a more discrete influence. Specifically, Straujuma’s son was proposed to the Board of Norvik’s newly founded company with Vaitatis was done exactly to provide access to decision makers.

At the end of 2013, when it was already known about the changes in the government, Vaitaitis was visited in his Norvik bank office on Ernesta Birznieka-Upīša Street by Unity’s Secretary General Artis Kampars, as Pietiek was informed by sources in the bank.

When Kampars was asked if the two had discussed Straujuma as a possible PM candidate, the possible candidates for the post of Economy Minister or whether the banker had promised to support Unity in exchange for a specific composition of the government or energy policy changes. Unity’s Secretary General said that ‘this information is untrue’, without explaining which of these statements he was referring to.

Vaitatis is one of the key figures among sponsors of political parties who have had a hand in government formation processes. Ever since Pavļuts became Economy Minister, the government has seriously reviewed its policy on generous subsidies on bio-ethanol producers – Vaitatis’ official business.

All companies in which Ģirts Straujums is mentioned as Board member – SIA NBT Energy, NBT1 Energy, NBT2 Energy, NBT3 Energy, NBT4 Energy, NBT5 Energy, NBT6 Energy, NBT7 Energy – were founded shortly after authorities seized properties owned by Winergy, which had previously requested a loan at Norvik banka.

According to the Enterprise Register, Norvik banka had appointed Vaitaitis in charge of the arrested properties of Winergy. Estonian investors and shareholders of the bank are currently fighting over rights for this company. Vaitaitis has had formally left the Boards of the new companies in October 2013.

Both sides seem equally suspicious in this public war. On the one hand there are Estonians, who are accused of attempting to claim the loan that was provided to this company by the bank. On the other had there are the shareholders of the bank, who are accused of attempting a takeover with help from Vaitaitis and his contacts in the Economic Crimes Office of State Police.

When Kampars was the Economy Minister, the state provided generous subsidies to bio-ethanol producers. This guaranteed great wealth for Vaitaitis. He donated LVL 72,000 to four political parties during the 10th Saeima elections.

Three months after the generous donations, the ruling coalition led by Valdis Dombrovskis decided to allocate LVL 24.4 million from the state budget to Vaitaitis’ JP Terminals for the construction of a bio-ethanol production plant on the territory of Riga Freeport.

The project was never realized. The main reason for this was that Pavļuts became Economy Minister one year later. He changed the state subsidies policy for green energy business. Without state support, Vaitaitis’ project seemed too risky for private investors and banks.


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