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Saturday 25.05.2019 | Name days: Junora, Anšlavs
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Heads of Latvian Railways focus on restrooms instead of corruption claims

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUNo real explanation about why Latvian Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits’ accusations towards Latvian Railways (LDz) are wrong was never provided by LDz board chairman Edvīna Bērziņš during a press-conference on Friday, 10 May. Those present did learn, however, how much money LDz has invested in restrooms of railway stations.

Although it was announced that arguments would be provided as to why the minister’s accusations are unjustified, Bērziņš spent the majority of the press-conference stressing how well the company works. He even showed a 34-slide presentation, in which only a single slide was dedicated to the minister’s accusations. It was only briefly mentioned that the minister’s accusations ruin the company’s image. Bērziņš even threatened: «You will see the losses Latvian state will suffer after such a blow to reputation.»

He also said that the minister’s actions are «aimed at privatizing or otherwise stealing LDz». Meanwhile, LDz board member Aivars Strakšas speculated on the matter: «[…] one of the companies [owned by LDz] will likely get privatized.»

It is worth mentioning that Linkaits never said a word about the performing internal changes or privatization. The only thing he proposed in this public statement is replacing the board of LDz.

Although the Competition Council has commenced a case against LDz for possible abuse of dominant position and market distortion, which could result in serious financial consequences for Latvia, the chairman of LDz said he has nothing to be ashamed of.

Also during the press-conference, which was originally dedicated to address the minister’s complaints, was spend telling those present how LDz has successfully organized restrooms at railway stations in Daugavpils and Ludza, and how much was earned last year. Bērziņš also stressed how well company employees are doing and how the number of deaths on the railway has significantly declined because LDz has installed many fences along railways.

Expanding on complaints from the minister about possible corruptive actions being performed in the company, Bērziņš, in the heat of his monologue, said: «Even if claims regarding corruption turn out untrue, there will still be major reputation risks for LDz».

Previous events

On Tuesday, 7 May, Linkaits said he does not trust LDz management board, adding that members of the board do not understand European Commission’s free market regulations. Moreover – he said there are suspicions about possible corruption and scheming in the company.

Latvian Railway chairman and president Edvīns Bērziņš, board member and vice-president Aivars Strakšas, as well as vice-president Ainis Stūrmanis received the biggest portion of bashing from the minister for «non-transparent activities».

«I have met with LDz administration and shared with them my impression about the company’s overall work. When I began my work in the ministry, I made it clear we would assess all companies for compliance with good corporate management principle to prevent different kinds of scheming and crimes of corruption, which have been historically recorded here. And respectively, after performing the assessment, I informed the administration of Latvian Railway that I cannot trust them due to a number of reasons,» said Linkaits.

The minister also stresses that a large amount of emphasis in advertisement contracts was noticed in Ventspils and Dobele.

There is no logical reason why these two cities require so much sponsoring, especially considering these two cities do not have a large number of LDz clients. «With that, we believe many advertisement and marketing contracts were not related to the company’s main form of activities.»

When asked by journalists if contracts could have ties to Aivars Lembergs and Uldis Augulis, the minister said: «I hope we will learn about motivation more through audits».

Next week, LDz council will decide if the aforementioned individuals should be kept in their posts.


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