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Friday 20.10.2017 | Name days: Leonīda, Leonīds

Is Latvijas avize newspaper going be orchestrated by Aivars Lembergs? Part I

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Aivars Lembergs

The change in Latvijas avize Council membership could result in editorial policy alteration and loss of independence of the largest Latvian newspaper.

Former President of Latvia Valdis Zatlers hastily stated that, oligarchs have no more influence over politics. It is just that they changed their tactics, now acting in a more quiet and subtle way, using additional instruments of their influence.

Loopholes in the laws governing the Registry of enterprises represent one such instrument, an instrument which is being regularly stressed by BNN. A good example would be – the constant attempts to replace the management in two of the largest Ventspils terminals: Kalija parks and Ventbunkers. It would seem that the perpetual enemies – Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs and the millionaires Olaf Berkis and Oleg Stepanov – ended their mutual fight for resource exhaustion and united, in order to remove the team led by the Swiss lawyer Rudolf Meroni from running these terminals. And the Registry of enterprises once again registered the coup at Ventbunkers, which was reasonably characterized by Rudolf Meroni as being falsified and is soon to be challenged by Meroni at the Court.

But the impact from the stone, thrown by the three of Ventspils into the Registry of enterprises, has started sending waves that could potentially flow through the entire country. The men who took control -it can be assumed, temporarily- are businessmen, but to everyone’s surprise they did not start with business, instead they turned to mass media. Because Ventbunkers owns a completely unspecialized asset in the form of Latviajs avize (LA) newspaper, and one of the first acts of business of the «rioters» was the replacement of the newspaper’s Council. Aivars Grobins, Alvis Haze and Sergey Iljasenko were excluded from the Council.

In fairness though it should be noted that even so these people are considered to be Meroni’s men, they did not in any way influence neither the editorial policy nor the publications. Unlike, for example, Neatkariga newspaper, which is now rightfully considered to be the «Voice of Lembergs», LA did not publish tons of compliments to Meroni, and published the so called «Ventspils transit wars» in a reasonable way, not favoring one side of the conflict, specifically the side of the main shareholder.

Now LA Council consists of: Olaf Berkis – Chairman, Dzintars Kass and Gatis Klimass – members of the Council. It is worth noting that Mr. Berkis is considered to be the Chairman of Ventbunkers Council, according to the Registry of enterprises, Mr. Klimass – member of the Council of the terminal, Mr. Kass – Chairman of the Board. In other words, practically the entire current top management of the oil transit enterprise has merrily left to manage the most popular Latvian newspaper. What made them do that? In order to make sense of this situation a deep look at these journalist specialist who have taken it up on themselves to simultaneously manage the transit of oil products and devise strategies for LA and give orders to journalists on how to write and which topics to write about?

Olaf Berkis. Once the actor of support roles in Lembergs’ team, support because the main role belong to someone who is dubbed by evil men as Hussein Napoleon. BNN source in Ventspils City Council remembers that, Olaf took part in a secret meeting held by Lembergs in the municipality, during which the Mayor of Ventspils allegedly gave the objective to manage Latvian Shipping Company in a way that would allow to «launder» 10-15 million LVL in order to pay back the «duped» Andris Skele, with whom they had an prior arrangement to «divide» the privatized Shipping Company in two.

After a while Berkis got tired of being second, as did Oleg Stepanov. At one moment these two allied against Lembergs, at another «shoved» each other, in the end they came to witness the accusations in the endless criminal case involving serious crimes, of which the State accuses the almighty Ventspils «duke». Unlike Lembergs, Berkis does not constantly grace the news, does not appear on television, does not gather weekly press-conferences, does not boast about his exceptional talents, does not have any dead companions, and does not aspire for the role of the savior of the fatherland. At the same time his quiet authority is well recognized in the circles of Latvian political and business elite, his people quietly gain posts in both the government and municipalities. If Berkis decides to do something, he sees it through to the end, and patiently waits on the coast while the lifeless body of his enemy slowly drifts past him. Berkis can temporarily put aside any past insults in the name of reaching his goal he can kiss his enemy, thereby demonstrating his readiness to temporarily become his supporter. This is the carefully calculated algorithm he acted with, when making an unspoken agreement with Lembergs in their fight against Meroni.

Dzintars Kass. Well known only is small public circles. On one hand he is Berkis’ longtime companion, they were business partners. So, they both took part in a business deal as result of which they became co-owners of more than hectare of land and five buildings in Jurmala, on Babites street 17, for which they paid 12 460 000 LVL. In the beginning of the century, when Berkis and Lembergs did not plan to wage war against Merony, Kass was the Chairman of the Board of Ventbunkers. Then the terminal, and actually Lembergs and his associates, took part in the privatization of the state owned shares of Latvijas Krajbanka capital – Dzintars was a member of the bank’s Council. One other thing, Ventspils group was also represented on this Council by Ansis Sormulis and Laimonis Strujevics. Sormulis is currently being trialed in Court as Lembergs’ partner in crime in the known criminal case. On the other hand Strujevics was saved by some miracle of fate. In due time with the help from Lembergs, he first became the Chairmen of the Latvian Farmers’ Union, and then the Minister of Economy. Nowadays – he is the manager of the Economic department of Ventspils City Council. As we can see, Kass is closely related not only to Berkis, but Lembergs as well, and uses the latter one’s special trust. It is enough to recount a number of other companies that were under Lenbergs’ influence, in which Kass filled in the role of manager – LaSam, Ventspils nafta, VB Holdings, Latvijas Naftas tranzits.

Kass is also no stranger to politics. He was one of the connecting belts between Lembergs and the now finished oligarch Ainars Slesers, by entering the Board of Slesers’ New party at its best period of 1998 and managed the party’s Ventspils bureau.

Kass’ special place in the Ventspils business-group is characterized by his history of supplying it with money from the Venus Investment Company registered in Malta.

In 2001 Kass was the president of VB Holdings Company – which was created for performing financial transactions. Its co-founders – Lembergs, Berkis, Stepanov, also aside from Berkis and Stepanov Lembergs’ children Anrijs and Liga were also members of this company’s Council. While Council members all had a monthly wage of 10 000 LVL (Chairman of the Council – Berkis received 11 000 LVL), Kass on the other hand agreed to work for a symbolic sum of – 200 LVL per month. At the same time Kass purchases Venus Investment Company from the sworn advocate Janis Zelmenis for 4000 USD, who registered the company on Malta Island. This company is registered by the same address as Venus Holding. Back in the day Diena newspaper suggested that these two companies could be associated with one another. According to Lursoft, Venus Holding owned 45% of Venbunkers logistika capital. The rest of the shares were owned by VB Holdings and Ventbunkers, the main players in which were the aforementioned individuals.

Being paid crumbs in VB Holdings and spending thousands of dollars on the purchase of Venus Investment, Kass can be described as a disinterested person: only in three months his Malta based firm transferes almost 3 000 000 dollars to the firm of his Ventspils employers in tranches of 724 000 USD, 88 000 thousand USD and 1 110 000 USD. It is no surprise that neither Lembergs nor Berkis can manage without his services in the Council of Latvijas avize newspaper.


Conclusion will follow


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