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Sunday 05.04.2020 | Name days: Vidaga, Aivija, Vija

Kaspars Podiņš suspected of taking no measures in Olainfarm case and stalling other national level cases in VID

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 Andrejs Vaivars, Dīlers, Dinaz, Kaspars Čerņeckis, Kaspars Podiņš, corruption, Olainfarm, important, State Revenue Service, stalling

Kaspars Podiņš

The non-existent investigation of the Olainfarm money laundering case and delays with Dinaz and Dīlers may be the responsibility of the State Revenue Service (VID) Taxes and Customs Office Chief Kaspars Podiņš. And yet he has been picked to be promoted to general.

Complicated cases outline stalling of investigations

Under Podiņš, cases are not resolved 100%, respectively big cases become irrelevant and only a handful of them are passed down further for criminal prosecution. In response to this claim, VID public relations specialist Andrejs Vaivars told BNN that «this is nonsense». However, BNN has not been able to find a single VID press-release about scandalous cases being sent to the office of the prosecutor and the guilty being put to justice – only about specific episodes.

After the death of Valērijs Maligins suspicions surfaced about fictive deals in Olainfarm. Because of that, the guardian of Maligins’ daughter Signe Baldere-Sildedze submitted a request to VID Taxes and Customs Office to investigate suspicious dealings. The head of the office Kaspars Podiņš asked competent authorities to check the information and search for additional evidence.

A considerable amount documents was collected and the case was sent for investigation to the senior investigator.

Because there were suspicions about fictive marketing contracts, a criminal case was launched to request information and testimony from Cyprus about suspicious dealings. If there is no criminal case, the investigator’s acquired information has no power as evidence and foreign law enforcement institutions do not provide information to institutions from other countries.

Several days following the commencement of the criminal process, Olainfarm board member Mārtiņš Krieķis sharply reacted to the commencement of the process and submitted an application to Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) and other state institutions, claiming the investigator had fabricated materials in the Olainfarm case.

But no one investigates how exactly Krieķis learned of the case having been commenced, as this was not publicly accessible information at the time. There are suspicions that the information was leaked by officials close to Podiņš.

Even though VID Tax and Customs Office officials had collected a considerable amount of evidence, under Podiņš was taken from the investigator. Then the case ended up in the State Police Economic Crimes Enforcement Unit in spite of the fact the case was initially launched about money laundering. Cases revolving around laundered money gained through tax fraud are the responsibility and priority for VID.

Office chief Podiņš rotates people close to him to avert suspicion

VID Financial Crimes Office’s Second Investigation Department (Tax and Customs Police office’s structure unit) senior investigator Jānis Akmentiņš may be closely associated with the infamous Olainfarm board member Pāvels Rebenoks and gladly fulfills Podiņš’s instructions as to the way cases should be resolved, according to information available to BNN.

Immediately after the case was launched, according to Podiņš’s claim about an order from Jaunzeme, both the investigator and Podiņš’s friend Akmentiņš were rotated to work in the Money Laundering Prevention Office. VID chief Jaunzeme later claimed in an interview to Nekā personīga it was necessary to relocate all professionals to work on Moneyval recommendations.

Perhaps both professionals were moved to another department to avert suspicions from Podiņš about his ties with Akmentiņš and Olainfarm.

Information available to BNN shows that Akmentiņš has no relevant experience to work with Moneyval recommendations.

It should be said that information available on VID homepage states that Akmentiņš is no longer needed as Moneyval specialist. This is why he has been moved to Podiņš’s Financial Crimes Office.

Polish investigators have already progressed towards presenting charges, whereas in Latvia the case has been delegated to inexperienced investigators

The former Olainfarm case investigator, who worked on scandalous criminal cases like Dinaz and Dīlers, had taken the case far enough to have it submitted to the office of the prosecutor. VID used press-releases of these cases to feel proud of its work – impressive amounts of money were confiscated and transferred to the state budget during the investigation.

BNN sources in Organized Crime and Other Industries’ Specialized Office of the Prosecutor report that from the moment it was submitted for commencement of criminal prosecution Dīlers case has remained idle since summer 2018. Now, however, likely with Podiņš’s recommendation, the investigator has been «promoted» and taken off Dinaz and Dīlers cases, as well as Olainfarm case.

It is known that demotion in VID structures is associated with committed violations. However, if one wants to get rid of an inconvenient worker in some department, a promotion can help remove them from an important case. This also prevents them from complaining over this.

Large-scale cases are instead diverted to regions where investigators have no experience dealing with case of such scale and importance. The excuse used here is that officers there are less swamped by work.

This means there is a possibility Dinaz and Dīlers may never reach the office of the prosecutor.

BNN is aware officials associated with Dinaz case have been presented with charges in Poland. In Latvia, on the other hand, high-ranking officials might proceed with criminal prosecution of only a part of the case – dealing with only part of the crimes detailed in the case and tackling the rest «later».

The missing report

The moment Jaunzeme became the head of VID, she ordered Podiņš to submit a report on accomplishments with tax and customs criminal cases for the last decade so that she can ask for explanations about conditions that had prevented scandalous cases had gone «dark», according to information available to BNN.

But no report was submitted, because Jaunzeme was given a hint by higher-ups to «slow down» with requests for information from Podiņš.

This means there was a high possibility the report would have revealed information that all major cases that were put in Podiņš’s hands had «suddenly» become non-important.

Ex-VID official Kaspars Čerņeckis now works in Finance Ministry, to which VID is under direct subordination, as the minister’s advisor for matters of taxes, customs and grey economy prevention. It should be said that he left VID following scandalous trials. He also has close relationship with both Podiņš and his deputy, according to information available to BNN. It may be a coincidence, but once Čerņeckis started working in the ministry, there has been no need for the aforementioned report and it was not submitted at all.

In a conversation with BNN, VID public relations specialist Andrejs Vaivars said it is unlikely anyone could order Podiņš to write such a report.

As it is known, VID is under direct subordination to Finance Ministry. This is why Čerņeckis, though no longer employed in VID, gives the service unofficial orders and recommendations how the service should go about its work, according to BNN sources.

Fabricated accomplishments in criminal cases about contraband

According to available information, statistics of investigated cases presented by Podiņš is not bad, because accomplishments are secured through different cases regarding contraband. But there are no results in cases dealing with money laundering.

There are suspicions about cases being stalled. On top of that, there have been reports about employees working under Podiņš do not consider him a good leader.

Although Vaivars denies VID employees could have written any complaints against Podiņš, information available to BNN implies the opposite – there have been multiple complaints and what is detailed therein is quite worrying.

The letter sent to VID director general accuses Podiņš of performing political orders, score-settling, double standards, fabrication of facts and bias, as well as covering up for officials and promoting them to leading positions.

On top of that, many employees working under Podiņš, according to BNN sources, switch to positions in other institutions or private structures, where they are paid similar wages, and no longer work under Podiņš. It can be said that over the course of the past two years competent workers have been leaving VID in droves.

According to Vaivars, Podiņš has earned promotion to general, because ‘he has provided an enormous amount of personal contribution to his work and is diligent about his duties’.

But such a level of suspicion – both in regards to stalling large-scale cases, covering up contraband and performance of political orders – does not suggest spotless reputation and good management principles. There is also the question: has a man who allowed such variability and has created a situation when important cases are stalled because of shortage of competent investigators truly earned to be promoted to general?

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