British Commercial Court – a sub-division of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice has launched new proceedings against the accused politician Aivars Lembergs, his children and associates. They have been sued by a subsidiary of AS Latvian Shipping Company (Latvijas Kugnieciba) – Latmar.
Jakob Hirschbaeck, Lembergs’ lawyer in foreign countries, has already given testimony.
His testimony clearly shows that privatization of the remaining state-owned AS Ventspils Nafta shares was coordinated by Lembergs, his associates and Vitol subsidiary - Euromin Holding, reports the portal Pietiek.
The claim has been filed on suspicion of international fraud – unlawful appropriation of Latmar funds. Allegedly, Lembergs’ associates – former managers of the Latvian Shipping Company – established links with offshore networks and entered into sham contracts.
The Privatisation Agency put up Ventspils Nafta for sale at the Riga Stock Exchange on October 5, 2006. Back then, Aigars Kalvitis served as the Prime Minister, while the People’s Party leader Aigars Stokenbergs was in charge of the Economy Ministry.
Documents of Latmar claim show that cash to settle with Vitol for buy-back of Ventspils Nafta shares was “accumulated” in the offshore firms Cerelus Ltd and Endale Holding. Allegedly, these offshore accounts were also transferred millions who are believed to have been defrauded out of the Latvian Shipping Company’s subsidiary.
So the documents in fact suggest that Vitol as the owner of the Latvian Shipping Company is now fighting in favour of money appropriation from Latvian Shipping Company’s subsidiary, allegedly carried out by Lembergs and his associates. Most probably, Vitol is very well aware that the money was used to settle with its structures for buying back Ventspils Nafta.
Ventspils Nafta auction triggered a great fuss in the media, raising suspicion that it took place in the interests of Lembergs and that the result was arranged in advance. Besides, this particular version was further strengthened by the fact that up until late 2009, Vitol had been associated with Lembergs, as his associates worked in Ventspils Nafta management. After that Vitol relationship with Lembergs complicated and his people were dismissed from the Ventspils Nafta management board. Since then the company is controlled by Vitol subsidiary.
Already back in 2007, Vitol and Lembergs were said to have agreed on joint management of Ventspils Nafta. They were also believed to have signed the so-called Put Call Agreement that granted Lembergs and his Ventspils associates the right to buy back Ventspils Nafta in 2009.
So far this version had not been confirmed. But now Hirschbaeck’s testimony to the British court proves that, months before the sale, “Latvian investors” launched talks with Vitol representatives. They agreed that Vitol subsidary was to become owner of Ventspils Nafta, while Vitol would cooperate with the “Latvian investors”. They were supposed to purchase Vitol shares in Ventspils Nafta in late 2009.
Hirschbaeck names Lembergs, his son Anrijs and Andris Vilcmeiers, Anrijs’ associate, as the persons leading the group of “Latvian investors”. Millionaires Vladimirs Solomatins, Uldis Pumpurs, Mamerts Vaivads and Lembergs’ daughter Liga are also mentioned.