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Wednesday 16.08.2017 | Name days: Astrīda, Astra

Skele’s family becomes involved in fast loan business

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUEx-prime minister Andris Skele’s family has entered the fast loans business. Skele’s son-in-law Edgars Dupats became one of the co-owners of 4finance this February. This company is more widely known under SMScredit and Vivus trademarks.

4finance’s co-owners are Malta-based FCI Investments Limited (25%) and Cyprus-based Tirona Limited (75%). Its previous owner was Russian gambling billionaire Oleg Boiko, as reported by De Facto programme and Baltic exploratory journalism centre Re:Baltica.

According to Forbes, Boiko had acquired 4finance shares for approximately USD 190 million in 2012. According to information from De Facto programme, 4finance has changed hands since February 2015: Vera Boiko acquired 49% in Tirona Limited. Researchers believe she is Oleg Boiko’s mother. 25.5% of shares are now owned by Uldis Arnicans and the same amount is owned by Dupats.

Dupats is ex-prime minister Andris Skele’s son-in-law. He remains the Chairman of the Council of Liepājas Autobusu parks, which is indirectly owned by Skele’s family. De Facto wished to learn how Dupat’s could afford shares in Tirona Limited and whether or not he intends to represent Skele’s interests in 4finance. Dupats, however, was laconic in his answers: «You see this could be a long conversation.» Dupats asked if he could provide answers in writing. One day later he said he had no time for an interview and responded rather evasively in the correspondence: «Changes to the structure of Tirona Limited’s shareholder composition have no relation to the attraction of new investors. […] The person you mentioned in your letter has no relation whatsoever to 4finance Holding S.A.»

Previously, construction businessman Maris Martinsons was part of the Council of 4finance. His companies had provided 4finance with loans worth more than EUR 1.7 million. However, shortly after searches carried out by Finance Police in companies owned by Martinsons, his name had suddenly disappeared from the list of Council members in 4finance. The first thousands were received be the leader of fast loan market from the company related to former deputy of Liepaja Council Ivars Kesenfelds. 4finance was provided EUR 500,000 by Vice-Mayor of Riga Andris Ameriks in 2010. Ameriks has remained in the business since then.

In August 2013, 4finance released bonds worth USD 170,000 on the Irish exchange. They were bought by Ameriks for USD 600,000. It was something of a loan. With its help, Ameriks earned 13% annually. «As a politician, I no longer engage in commercial activities directly. I have my money deposited in Swedbank. They have great consultants. I asked them how to properly invest money. Last time they told me that buying 4finance bonds would be a good option. They recommended. I thanked them and bought,» – said Ameriks.

According to Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola, «representatives of the market are very active lobbyists in the Saeima and different ministries». Finance Minister Janis Reirs says the opposite: «We feel no pressure. I’ve never had any conversations with their representatives». According to the programme, it was Unity politician Dzintars Zakis that this industry’s representative Baiba Fromane was looking at this week after the Saeima committees had agreed to adopt stricter restrictions to the issue of fast loans in Latvia. Reizniece-Ozola’s comrade Ingmars Lidaka is strictly against those amendments.

Non-bank loan providers are licensed by Consumers Rights Protection Centre. However, this institution does not check the origin of such companies’ base capital. It does not have the authority to request information from the Money Laundering Prevention Service, which compiles information about suspicious transactions. There is a risk that fast loans could be financed using laundered money. «Experience shows that complicated schemes of organized crime groups often hide behind documented and legal source of finances. As part of such schemes, laundered money are acquired with the intention to be used to provide fast loan services to capital enterprises present in the non-bank sector,» – as stated by Money Laundering Prevention Centre in an interview to the programme.


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