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Tuesday 25.09.2018 | Name days: Rauls, Rodrigo
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BNN summary of the week: name-calling in Transport Ministry and rushed tax reform

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUBNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Fight; Truth; Business; Future; Growth and Opinion.

BUSINESS: SRS to present parliamentary investigators materials associated with oligarch case

Members of the parliamentary investigative committee will be presented with materials associated with the infamous oligarch case, as confirmed by Chief of State Revenue Service’s Finance Police Edijs Ceipe.

Initially SRS had informed the committee that materials would be given to the prosecutor responsible for the case, not the committee. However, after evaluating applicable regulations, it has been decided to allow deputies to go through those materials in the presence of SRS employees.

Members of the committee did not mention which exact case is in question, but TV3 programme Nekā personīga reported on 10 September that Finance Police ended the criminal case regarding VAT fraud in relation to the construction of ex-politician Ainārs Šlesers’ house. The programme mentioned that Finance Police had decided to end the case. However, authorities did not provide proof that ‘there had been no tax fraud or at least an intention to cause damage to the state’.

The whole situation started when SIA Avadel, a company owned by Šlesers family, turned to SRS and requested repayment of more than EUR 225,000 in VAT, which was a result of construction and maintenance work associated with construction of said building. This raised a certain degree of suspicion within SRS that Šlesers was thereby trying to avoid paying all the necessary taxes. An audit was organized in Avadel as a result. SRS officials were confident the company had no rights for VAT return because ownership rights over the building are owned by Šlesers family, not the company, Nekā personīga reports.

Full article here

FIGHT: Antāne: I will talk about Transport Ministry without name-calling, I am above that

Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics organized a press-conference at Bergs Hotel on Wednesday, 13 September. During this conference, the association reported on the proposed action plan with specific objectives and deadlines for the government.

Members of the association also invited Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis to take charge in talks with industry representatives, considering that talks with Transport Ministry and minister Uldis Augulis have reached a dead end.

After the official portion of the conference, in which BATL president Inga Antāne, Ventbunkers economy and budget office manager Ivars Landmanis, Baltic Expresis chairman Māris Bremze and Ventspils Commercial Port board member Jānis Hāze discussed topical problems in the industry and answered questions from the audience.

It is important to emphasize that Antāne, opening the discussion about the industry’s problems, said: «It is not just about transit, but also about Latvia’s economy as a whole. The industry provides 8,000 jobs and brings the state budget around one billion euros every year.»

The conference pointed to the trend for processed cargo volumes to decline. «This is the reality,» said BATL president. She added that it is necessary to review costs, the current loan volume and the tariff, which is set to grow by 7% next year.

Full article here

TRUTH: for tax reform to yield results, it should have been given three years to develop

For it to yield tangible results, the tax reform should have been given at least three years to develop, says financial and legal affairs consultant, Latvian Tax Consultant Association’s chairman Ainis Dābols.

He is confident that any tax reform’s introduction period should be longer than what Latvia has now.

«I was present at the meeting with Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola. She said there is no more room for delays – elections are around the corner. On top of that, she said there is a number of European Commission requirements and other reasons why it should be done this year. Perhaps she is right. Nevertheless, but if the effect from the reform would have been better if it had been in development longer,» said Dābols.

According to him, it would have been better if the reform had been in development for at least three years. «It is easy for politicians to say – let’s introduce some new rules and then see how things go. I would rather the State Revenue Service not tell me out of the blue in 2020 that I owe something from 2018. Who would pay the tax debt for me – the prime minister?» said the tax consultant.

He believes it would be best to have a transition period so that businesses would not be applied with full-sized sanctions for problems with SRS. Unfortunately, because there is no transition period, businesses and private persons can expect some unpleasant surprises and even penalties.

Full article here

GROWTH: Latvia attracts half a billion euros from Juncker’s investment plan

Latvia has attracted approximately half a billion euros from the so-called Juncker investment plan, as confirmed by head of Latvia’s representation in the European Commission Inna Šteinbuka in an interview to Rīta Panorāma.

She says that Jean Claude Juncker’s speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg was optimistic. There was no optimism a year ago: his main concern was Brexit at the time. And a year before then, the migrant crisis was the biggest problem for Europe.

This is why his latest speech was optimistic – Europe and Latvia both demonstrate growth, unemployment continues to decline and investments continue flowing into economies.

Šteinbuka said that even though initially there was scepticism in Latvia upon the unveiling of Juncker’s plan, current estimates show that approximately half a billion euros have entered Latvia’s economy thanks to this plan.

Full article here

FUTURE: Smiltēns may cooperate with another party to participate in Saeima elections

The now former Unity member Edvards Smiltēns does not exclude the possibility of cooperating with any existing Saeima party to participate in upcoming elections.

As reported by Diena, Society for Positive Changes will discuss plans for the future this week. One of the variants on the table is foundation of a new party. However, Smiltēns believes it is necessary to consolidate political forces, not create new ones. This is why a different option is in consideration – Society for Positive Changes may sign a cooperation agreement with some party prior to Saeima elections to delegate candidates, «which would be better from the opinion of state interests».

Smiltēns did not mention which party he may cooperate with. He only said that he has spoken with multiple parties. The association currently has around 50 members, some of whom are former Unity members.

Full article here

OPINION: can an official survive in Latvia without Lembergs?

The general impression in Latvia is that most politicians believe that life without Aivars Lembergs would mean the same as what is implied in by Christianity – living without God means subjecting oneself to hell.

Perhaps Latvian politicians also think that it is better to not live is such a ‘hell’ and instead believe what ‘paradise’ can give them. In such a case, you would not be a ‘political prostitute’, ‘corrupted politician’ or even ‘an international criminal’ in Lembergs’ eyes. Those were just some of the things Lembergs loves to mention in relation to his opponents.

Lembergs’ influence on many of Latvia’s politicians hardly surprises anyone at this point. However, it is rumoured that Saeima’s parliamentary committee for the investigation of the infamous oligarch case has members loyal to Lembergs. If this is true, it is worth considering just how «high and mighty» he is.

On Monday, 11 September, Saeima deputy Artuss Kaimiņš announced that there are four people associated with Lembergs or his family that take active part in the parliamentary investigation. According to Kaimiņš, such a situation means open mocking of Latvia’s society.

Spitting the face of Latvia’s society can also be attributed to journalist, member of Latvian Association of Journalists and the National Alliance, Riga City Council member candidate Imants Liepiņš, who, it seems, is not shy to apply for Saeima’s Parliamentary Investigative Committee and voice his readiness to voice proposals on how to best «improve Latvia’s information space free of propaganda and false news».

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Latvian government to expand Money Laundering Prevention Service’s capacity

On Tuesday, 25 September, Latvian government reached an agreement on the need to reorganize the supervision Cabinet of Ministers has over Money Laundering Prevention Service. At the same time, members of the government also agreed to expand the service’s capacity, Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola told journalists.

New natural gas tariffs approved in Latvia; those who use more gas will pay less

The Public Utilities Commission has approved AS Gaso’s submitted natural gas transmission system’s tariff project, which provides for the introduction of a fixed fee for connection to permitted load regardless of the consumed gas volume.

OCMA: majority of Latvian immigrants live in Britain, Ireland and Germany

The Office for Citizenship and Migration Affairs has calculated the exact number of Latvian citizens living abroad. The majority of Latvians reside in Britain, followed by Ireland, Germany , and USA, according to the data compiled in July 2018.

Sweden's head of government Löfven loses no-confidence vote

The head of Swedish government, Stefan Löfven has not received the support of parliamentary majority despite his left-wing block narrowly winning the parliamentary election earlier in the month.

CC: number of business merges on a rise in Latvia

In the first eight months of 2018, Competition Council made twelve decisions regarding business merges, which is 50% more than the number of similar decisions made in the same period of last year. Consolidation of market participants takes place the most often in retail trade of household goods, BNN was informed by the council.

EU supervisor to investigate Estonian and Danish banking authorities on Danske Bank

The banking supervisory authority of the European Union has been asked to investigate the work of Denmark and Estonia’s national banking watchdogs over possible shortcomings in failing to prevent money laundering through the Estonia branch of Danske Bank.

airBaltic receives its 12th Airbus A220-300 aircraft

Latvian airBaltic airline has received its twelfth Airbus A220-300 aircraft with registration number YL-CSN. The airline plans to have a total of fourteen Airbus A220-300 aircraft by the end of 2018.

In pictures: Pope Francis arrives in Tallinn

The head of the Roman Catholic church has been welcomed in Tallinn as he begins the last leg of the papal visit to the Baltic states devoted to their centenary.

Meteorologists say first autumn storm in Latvia to take place this week

On Tuesday, 25 September, atmospheric pressure in Latvia will increase and clouds will tend to reduce in the afternoon, as reported by Latvia’s Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Germany's largest bank required to improve fight against money laundering

The financial watchdog of Germany has called on Deutsche Bank to improve its measures against legalisation of dirty money.

Nearly 20,000 Latvians were living in Ireland in spring 2016

19,933 Latvian citizens were living in Ireland in spring 2016, according to census data from Ireland’s Central Statistical Bureau on the number of foreigners living in the country.

Russian protest leader Navalny detained right after previous detention

Alexei Navalny, a supporter of current protests in Russia against pension reform, has been released from administrative arrest, but arrested again on the same day to be kept in administrative arrest for another 20 days on charges of holding an illegal protest.

CPB: Russian special services remain highly interested about Latvia

Russian special services remain highly interested about Latvia’s internal politics. This includes 13th Saeima elections and their possible results. However, there is currently no information to suggest the election process could be influenced from the outside, admits Constitution Protection Bureau.

PHOTO: Pope Francis visits Riga Cathedral and meets seniors at St Jacob’s Cathedral

Pope Francis visited both Riga Castle and Riga Cathedral, where a service was held under his supervision. There he met with different Latvian officials. After that, the pope met with senior citizens at St Jacob’s cathedral.

Pope Francis arrives in Latvia for an official visit

Pope Francis arrived in Latvia on Monday, 24 September. He was greeted at the airport by President Raimonds Vējonis, Archbishop Zbigņevs Stankevičs and other public figures.

Week in Lithuania. President proposes amendments to restrict bailiffs' remuneration

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė is putting forward amendments aimed at restricting bailiffs' financial remuneration to up to 15 per cent of the amount recovered.

BNN summary of the week: pre-election heat, rule of law in Latvia, Baltics prepare for Pope’s visit

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Elections; Change; Stagnation; Fight; Visit; Investigation.

Court reschedules viewing of criminal case due to Non-citizens Congress leader’s poor health

Riga City Vidzeme Suburb Court announced today that the viewing of the criminal case in which leader of Non-citizens Congress Aleksandrs Gapoņenko is accused of inciting national hate will be postponed to a later date.

Producer prices in industry up 1.0% in Latvia in August

Compared to July, level of producer prices in the Latvian industry rose by 1.0 % in August 2018. Level of prices of products sold on the domestic market grew by 1.9 %, but of exported products – went up by 0.1 %.

Bishop: priest suspected of sexual abuse to be operated on in hospital

Pāvels Zeiļa, who is a priest of Rezekne Aglona diocese and the suspect in the criminal case regarding sexual violence and human trafficking, will undergo a complicated surgery on Friday, 21 September, as reported by Bishop Jānis Bulis.

Study: residents withdraw money from ATMs less often but in larger amounts

Every now and then discussions about dropping cash money altogether become active in society, AS PrivatBank representatives say.

HND Grupa design company, involved in Zolitude tragery, declared insolvent

Building engineer Ivars Sergets company HND Grupa, which was involved in the case revolving around the Maxima supermarket that collapsed in Zolitude, killing 54, not five years ago, has been declared insolvent, as reported by Latvijas Avīze.

Deputy Chief of State Fire and Rescue Service suspected of misappropriation

Latvia’s Interior Affairs Ministry’s Internal Security Bureau has detained deputy chief of State Fire and Rescue Service Ints Sēlis and one other official – a senior inspector, as reported by Panorāma programme of LTV.

Washington sanctions China for buying Russian military equipment

U.S. government has introduces sanctions against the Chinese army over a purchase of fighter jets and missile systems from Russia, despite a U.S. sanctions law targeting Moscow for attempts to sway in the 2016 U.S. election.

Autumn expected to begin soon in Latvia

Friday, 21 September, is expected to be warm in Latvia. Sun and considerable amount of clouds are expected, but not precipitation. Wind will draw in from the south, reaching a speed of 15-17 m/sec in western and central regions, as reported by Latvia’s Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.