The UN Security Council has concluded one of the most large scale investigations of recent years on illegal arms supplies to the richest Western African country – Cote d’Ivoire. It is mentioned in the reports that two main suspects worked with two Latvian lawyers, who registered 14 firms and purchased real estate for them here.
The 350 page UN report depicts military aircraft, heavy military vehicles, grenades, handguns and other military hardware supply to the supporters of the former Cote d’Ivoire president Laurent Gbagbo. In November 2010, Cote d’Ivoire, or the Ivory Coast Republic President Gbagbo lost the presidential elections, but denied his opponent’s victory. Gbagbo supporters took up arms, and the bloody civil war began. Fighting still continues to this day in some parts of the country – on the South-West, Nekā Personīga (Nothing Personal) broadcast of TV3 reports.
Last year, after Gbagbo’s arrest, UN experts received an opportunity to take a look at the former president’s documents. Certain documents revealed evidence about two contraband networks in Cote d’Ivoire, which are tightly linked to the supporters of the overthrown president. Commander Anselme Seka Yapo is involved in organizing one of the contraband groups. The leader of the second group turned out to be Robert Montoya. It was Montoya’s activities that led the UN investigators to Latvia.
In 2003, R.M. Holdings Company, which is located on Elizabetes Street 31a, Riga, was founded. The company’s initials mean – Robert Montoya. UN investigators revealed that 14 firms were founded in Latvia in the period of 2003-2005 in Montoya’s interests. Two Latvian lawyers – Agris Taurenis and Ilmars Blumbergs – are mentioned in all these firms.
R.M. Holdings was the most active company of all. It purchased real estate, was a Parex Bank minority shareholder for several year, still, the company’s balance also stated a half a million worth private jet.
A number of firms mentioned in the UN reports were registered in a building on Valdemara Street, where the COLLEGIUM law firm is located. Taurenis and Blumbergs used to have work placements there. When the first publications that related their names to the possible arms deals in Cote d’Ivoire started appearing in the press in March, 2012, they both left the firm.
Currently though, most of the firms have already changed their legal addresses. They are now registered at an office building belonging to the Defence Ministry, which leases the building to Blumberg and a firm owned by the once chief of the Privatization agency Janis Naglis until 2038.
Both Latvians, mentioned in the UN report, denied giving any comments in front of cameras. Agris Taurenis does not deny that he often traveled to Cote d’Ivoire, but he believes that UN investigators carried out their work only on the surface, and that his name was wrongly included in the report. Taurenis admitted that he met with Robert Montoya, but he did not say anything more than that.
Ilmars Blumbergs was more open in this regard. He explained that a fatal accident brought them together. In 2003, this person wanted to start his own business in Latvia and Blumbergs helped him by registering the firm at the Enterprise registry, helped with real estate purchases. Blumbergs was also involved in cocoa beans freight.
They were mostly transported from Africa to different European ports. But trading with Africans was chaotic and difficult to organize.
Blumberg only found out about Montoya’s involvement in arms supplies from the UN reports and, according to him, was shocked. Their cooperation with Montoya decreased bit by bit in recent years and he did not have any contact with any of his Cote d’Ivoire contacts for some time now.
Nevertheless, the e-mail conversation between Ilmars Blumbergs and the other arms supply suspect – Anselme Seka Yapo – which was discovered by UN investigators could mean some serious problems for Latvian lawyers. This e-mail conversation took place from 2009 to April, 2011. It is clear from the information depicted in the letters that the Commander, who referred to himself as “Major”, was interested not only in medical supplies and milk products from Latvia, but in arms deals as well.