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Wednesday 21.11.2018 | Name days: Andis, Zeltīte
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Former head of Riga Central Market accused of extorting bribes

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUA third criminal process has been launched against the former head of Riga Central Market Anatolijs Abramovs. This time he is accused of bribe-extortion from a market tenant. In exchange for bribes, their contract would not be terminated unexpectedly.

De Facto programme of LTV has found out that State Police suspect the former market worker Aivo Bruģis of similar crimes. He became an employee shortly after Abramovs became the market’s manager.

Five years ago Abramovs was in charge of Riga Central Market. He was appointed to this post by Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs without holding a personnel selection process. Abramovs stepped down with not one but several scandals at his back – after he was presented with a restriction to perform his duties, a new post was created just for him. A month later, once again as the accused, Abramovs was arrested by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau, De Facto reports.

The charges detailed in a total of three separate criminal cases do not paint a pretty picture for Abramovs and several other market employees, considering the sheer scale of corruption uncovered at the market.

De Facto reminds that a documentary was released about Riga Central Market in 2015. In it, Anatolijs Abramovs was praised as a great manager. Abramovs was applied with a prohibition to perform his duties and manager of the central market that year. A new post was later created just for him: advisor to the management board for strategic projects. Abramovs even managed to keep his post after the first official charges were raised against him in May 2016.

Now Abramovs has become the accused in a third criminal process – extortion and acceptance of a bribe. It was during this particular case’s investigation that Abramovs was arrested right in the middle of Riga Central Market, LTV reports.

No information about the case was previously available until now. De Facto found out that the two previous criminal processes launched against Abramovs have nothing in common: neither the victory of Dezinfa in the market’s procurement for disinfection and pest control service, nor the embezzlement of funds for trade spots at the night market.

According to the official charges, Abramovs had extorted a bribe from SIA Cerebriti board member and owner Mārtiņš Vadžs. The ‘fee’ was fixed – 1,100 euro a month. In four sweeps – twice in the office of the market’s administration and twice in a café located in one of the pavilions – Abramovs collected 8,800 euro, the programme reports.

‘This bribe was ‘an option to avoid trouble’, because Riga Central Market can terminate contracts whenever it wants. To make sure Riga Central Market administration looked the other way and to just do business without complications, businessmen and traders paid the ‘politely requested fee’ on time,’ explains prosecutor Viktorija Šumska.

Abramovs denies his guilt, but offers no explanations as to why he was given cash from Vadžs that one time in the pavilion. «There are conditions, arguments, assumptions and testimonies, as well as explanations – everything can be found in materials of the case. I say this again: someone wants me to start positioning my defence. No, I will not. No, no, no. It is already sensitive enough – the entire process.»

Prosecutor Šumska, on the other hand, reveals how the situation was explained to her by Abramovs: «He was caught with last portion [money] that day. His explanation – he did not know it was money. Something, he said, was passed under the desk. He claims he thought it was some document, so he put it in his pocket without thinking. As to what all this means – it is now for the court to decide».

The programme also mentions that Abramovs had announced during the first court session that was not ready to listen to witnesses and their testimonies. He defends himself in all three criminal cases. Because of that, he says he has not had the time to go through all materials. Because of that, Vadzis will have t give his testimony in May. He refused to give an interview before testifying.

De Facto mentions that Vitalijs Litvins – former manager of Riga Central Market’s trade organization department – has decided to stay silent as well. He is a witness in the criminal case. However, in the so-called night market case he, Abramovs and three other night market supervisors are accused of embezzlement in large amounts. Both officials are accused of abuse of power.

«A group was organized – with people on top and night market supervisors on the field – collecting money for trade spots. Money was collected from people who came to sell off products, not the ones with whom the market has contracts signed. Without any receipts given in exchange, the money did not go to the cash register, as it should have. Instead that money was taken by those on top and the night market supervisors,» prosecutor Šumska explains.

A criminal process has been launched against one of Abramov’s former colleagues – Aivo Bruģis. «We are acquainted, I will not deny that. A well-known person. With that, this came as a shock,» Abramovs said about his former colleague.

Bruģis is not a state official, so the case is investigated by State Police. He is suspected of illegal requesting and accepting monetary benefits, not bribery as a whole. Police do not comment on the process, but De Facto has managed to find out that Bruģis has been considered the ‘beneficial protector’ by traders for some time. This fact is not denied by the new head of the central market and Saeima deputy Andris Morozovs from Harmony: «There were suspicions about the head of the trade department, but there were no solid facts. People were either intimidated into staying silent or had simply gotten used to how things are done. Few believed in law enforcers’ integrity and honesty. This is why it took so long for information to surface.»

Since autumn 2017 Riga Central Market has been managed by Artis Druvinieks, who was selected through a selection process.


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