The security measures, which, among other things, are called to prevent Lembergs, who is accused of serious crimes, from carrying out the duties of Mayor of Ventspils, do not seem to be effective – he still presents himself as a legal owner of Ventspils. It is as if Lembergs just does not care – it is, in fact, so hard for him to stop «bathing in the spotlight» that law enforcement institutions are planning to be stricter to him.
Three security measures are imposed against Lembergs – police surveillance with an additional prohibition to change his declared home address without according permission, additional prohibition to approach certain persons and extra duty to be each day at the declared place of residence. He is also forbidden from leaving Latvia and forbidden from carrying out specific duties, such as the duties of Mayor of Ventspils and Chairman of the Board of Ventspils Free port. Even though Lembergs requested to uplift all of these security measures, excluding the prohibition to leave Latvia, the Riga Regional Court denied his request on May 24, 2012.
Despite the aforementioned security measures, Lembergs continues to present himself as the Mayor of Ventspils in front of public and mass media. For example: he «posed» by organizing a special press conference in Riga where he presented the new Ventspils specific currency – «Vents» (Venti Lat.), praised himself for different achievements in Ventspils and kept showing up for Court hearings using the luxurious Audi owned by the Board of Ventspils Free port.
«The current situation, when Lembergs actually continues to carry out the duties of Mayor of Ventspils, does not comply with neither international principles, nor ethical – he should have resigned and his represented For Latvia and Ventspils Party should support this step,»- Ventspils City Council opposition deputy Vladislavs Shafranskis previously told BNN.
The situation when a person accused of serious crimes occupies the post of a Mayor – seems absolutely unacceptable to the deputy of the previous parliamentary team of Ventspils City Council Aivis Landmanis. «It should be stated in the legislation that a person who is being tried for committing serious crimes cannot be part of the State government. We are not talking about traffic rules violations, but corruption. By continuing to carry out the duties of Mayor of Ventspils, Lembergs obstructs the Court’s investigation and inspires the current parliamentary team of Ventspils City Council that he has all the opportunities to continue his work.» According to Landmanis, the State is not doing anything to resolve this situation: «It is possible that many representatives of party elite are corrupted, and cover up for Lembergs in fear that if they act against this situation, their own violations will be revealed.»
Nonetheless, it seems that his «posing» in front of the media and society could cost him a high price – the Prosecutor General’s office received an unfortunate (for Lembergs) testimony, which will, most likely, be used to impose stricter security measures against him. On May 31, the Prosecutor General’s office received a testimony with unfortunate news for the actual leader of the Greens’ and Farmers’ Union Aivars Lembergs, which will, most likely, be used to apply stricter security measures against the Mayor of Ventspils.
Shafranskis, on the other hand, is concerned that the formulations contained in the testimony will not be clear and precise enough to ensure that Lembergs will not be able to publicly represent both the City Council and the Board of the Free port. “The decisions of the law enforcement institutions on preventing Lembergs from carrying out the duties of Mayor of Ventspils are not strict enough. Previously made decisions need to be followed,” – he points.
The Prosecutor General’s office is not the only one that is not happy about Lembergs’ arbitrariness and audacity to pose as the Mayor of Ventspils. The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, led by Edmunds Sprudzs (Reform Party) is planning amendments to the Law On Self-Governments this year, thereby fulfilling the promise given by the former president of Latvia and current leader of the Reform Party Valdis Zatlers to combat the so called rule of oligarchs. Variants for amending the Self-Government Law are currently ongoing in the “corridors” of the ministry that would prevent an accused person to take up office in local governments and participate in elections as one of the candidates. Lawyers see these amendments as the only way to ensure Lembergs will not be able to remain as the Mayor of Ventspils – the right, which is denied to him by the Court and what concerns the state prosecutors.
In April 2012, Sprudzs took up the responsibility to fight to achieve Lembergs’ resignation from the post of Mayor of Ventspils. Sprudzs expressed his readiness to use the decisions of his ministry in his legal struggle.
Lembergs himself openly expresses his confidence that his image was stained specifically because of the nearing municipal elections. Latvia’s President’s actions seem to be beneficial for Lembergs in these elections – the government does not seem to be against the fact that a person, who is charged with serious crimes, is on such a high post. It is evidenced by the fact that Berzins went to Ventspils with an official visit on June 1, where he, among other things, found time to «chat» with Lembergs. All of it despite the fact that Riga Regional Court, which, since 2009, has been reviewing a criminal case related to Lembergs, denied Lembergs the right to present himself as Mayor of Ventspils.
It should be noted that Berzins was appointed as a presidential candidate from the Greens’ and Farmers’ Union, the actual leader of which is Lembergs, and with who’s name Berzins’ candidacy for several high ranking posts was also linked. Berzins admitted himself that his objective was to create competition for the leader of the country Zatlers. Also, Berzins was elected by the Saeima on June 2, 2011, the dissolution of which was announced by Zatlers on May 28. 94.3% of Latvian residents voted for the dissolution of the Saeima on the referendum held on July 23. Zatlers explained this act by his desire to combat the rule of oligarchs, even though three publicly slandered oligarchs – Lembergs, politicians Andris Skele and Ainars Slesers openly admitted that they do not see any point in dissolving the Saeima. Lembergs did not hide that he would vote against the dissolution of Saeima.
Additionally, after Berzins was elected as the Head of the State, Lembergs dared to candidate for the post of Prime Minister on behalf of the Greens’ and Farmers’ Union. AS a result, an agreement was made that Zatlers’ Reform Party (now Reform Party) would form the coalition along with Unity and the National Union (Visu Latvijai-Tēvzemei un Brīvībai/LNNK (VL-TB/LNNK), and Valdis Dombrovskis would lead the government.
Even before his appointment as the President of Latvia, the former banker Berzins had one of the largest, if not the largest pension, in Latvia. In 2007, in full accordance with his official’s declaration, became a pensioner – with his monthly pension nearing 4 900 LVL mark. It is possible that Berzins used the controversial regulations of the 1996 State Pension Law to achieve his large pension. In addition, shortly after his election as President, law enforcement institutions noted about the intention to check the 178 000 LVL expenses of EU fund money by the company owned by Berzins’ children. Suspicions were raised about a possibility of scams with the allocation of money from the Rural Support Service – resources were transferred for the construction of a recreation complex, but nothing indicated that the impressive complex and its surroundings would expect a very special guest, excluding Berzins’ family members, relatives and friends.
After receiving the post, Berzins announced that he will give away his salary to charity – he transferred his salary to several Latvian schools. Nonetheless, public opinion poll results state – most of Latvia residents believe this “noble act” to be a mere attempt to create a positive image for himself, thereby attempting to save himself from the negative information, which started circulating in the mass media shortly after his election.
Deputies of Ventspils City Council wrote Berzins a letter on June 7, in which they expressed their regret that the schedule of high ranking government officials does not include meetings with the deputies of the city council, especially with deputies of the opposition of the city council. «Unfortunately, instead of meeting with all Ventspils City Council deputies, to hear out concerns and standing problems, you chose to meet with a person charged with serious crimes. You carefully listened to the censored information of this person and grabbed on to the illusion, which has nothing to do with the reality of things in Ventspils. We are certain – if you had the necessary information, the form of your visit would have carried a different manner, surprising conclusions would not have been made, instead, your attention would have been drawn to the arbitrariness in the local government and at the city port,» – mentioned in the letter.
«We believe that you, as the founder of rational use of resources, would never support a secret redirection of funds in local government and within the board of the Free port for the satisfaction of the will of the accused person […] For the improvement of his image, the illusion of his indispensability and «zombification» of the public, with both the government and free port management spending hundreds of thousands. Meanwhile, not a single santim can be allocated for the realization of the rights of our legally elected deputies in the local government, to ensure the explanation of our position to the public, without mentioning the rest,» – the deputies express their collective opinion. In their letter, they ask the President to find the time to hear out the deputies and their pleas about the silenced problems of Ventspils.
It should be noted that the so called Lembergs’ criminal proceedings at the Riga Regiona l Court have already had 224 hearings. 45 Court hearings took place in 2009, 54 – in 2010 and 82 – in 2011. This year, Lembergs’ case participants have already met in the courtroom 43 times. 140 volumes bring together two criminal procedures, which the prosecutor handed to the Court in the second half of 2008.
The Prosecutor’s office accused Lembergs of accepting bribes and money laundering, counterfeiting of service, for participation in property transactions, which was against the law due to his post, as well as abuse of power and other crimes. His son, Anrijs Lembergs, is being accused along with him.
Also, information surfaced in the mass media that the Commercial Court of the Queen’s Bench Division of the Supreme Court of UK has begun another Court hearing in relation to the possible theft of money from Latvia’s Shipping Company, in which Lembergs is stated as one of the main defendants. Lembergs and a number of other people are related to the legalization of over nine million US dollars, for which offshore companies in Gibraltar were used, as the international asset freezing warrant issued by the London Court states.
Riga Regional Court will present its verdict on the freezing of 135 million US dollars (66.69 LVL) worth of assets belonging to Lembergs in June 14, which is provided by the order issued by the UK Court in spring last year. Riga City Vidzeme District Court declared the UK Court’s decision to be valid in Latvia in June, 2011, but it was challenged at Riga District Court. On April 20, 2011, the UK Court decided that it is forbidden for Lembergs to transfer his assets with a value up to 135 million dollars US out from the UK or Wales, to dispose of them in any way, use them or somehow decrease their worth.
The freezing warrant applies to all Lembergs’ assets irrelevant whether or not they are registered on his own name and irrelevant whether some particular asset is a co-ownership. In the Court’s reasoning – assets are any assets from which a person can both directly and indirectly dispose of, or to deal with it in a way that would imply that this asset belong to this person. Keeping in mind the fact that Lembergs is in Latvia, applicants – Antonio Gramsci Corporation and around 30 other companies – were in favor of legalizing and carrying out the decision of the UK Court in Latvia, as well as ensure the carrying out of the Court’s decision in any way.
Despite many allegations and imposed security measures, Lembergs formally remains the Mayor of Ventspils. He has been on this post since the beginning of the 90s. And on this year’s note, he is the richest official in Latvia, possibly thanks to being the secret owner of Ventspils transit business.