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Monday 17.02.2020 | Name days: Konstance, Donats
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Linkaits: banks once again service Ventspils Freeport terminals

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Ventspils Freeport, Latvia, Transport Minister, Tālis Linkaits, OFAC, Aivars Lembergs, sanctions The situation with Ventspils Freeport is gradually becoming more relaxed. On top of that, banks once again service port terminals there, as Latvian Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits affirmed in a conversation with journalists on Thursday, 23 January.

Ventspils Freeport CEO Andris Purmalis says the situation was discussed with terminals in December, when the situation was critical. During discussions, participants explained what needed to be done to avoid sanctions imposed by US State Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) after 8 January.

«Everything was discussed. We talked about terminal that were more diligent with their homework and which were struggling with theirs by 9 January. For some the period of ‘homework’ turned out longer than for others,» explained Purmalis, saying he understands the banks that want guarantees that the aforementioned sanctions would not affect companies.

He also explained that if a state-managed institution – Ventspils Freeport authority – has a contract with a terminal, banks have to understand the state has already checked the terminal on its side.

Riga Freeport CEO Ansis Zeltiņš notes that the situation with the list of entities subjected to sanctions has created a great deal of resonance and caused many questions among Riga Freeport’s clients and banks.

«I can say with confidence that at least in relation to practical operations of terminals and ports, the sanctions have no effect on Riga Freeport,» said Zeltiņš, adding that Riga Freeport authority has surveyed terminals and stevedores, concluding they have not had problems, including problems with money transfers.

When asked if Riga Freeport has checked if there is no influence from Aivars Lembergs, who is subjected to OFAC sanctions, Zeltiņš said yes.

«We are not a security service. We operate based on objective information available to us,» said Zeltiņš.

Read also: KNAB has not handled a single criminal case about potential corruption at Latvian ports

Riga Freeport’s CEO noted the problems with banks are common, but not because of sanctions – because the finance system’s attitude toward businesses registered to the east of Latvia. ‘We are aware of this problem, and I hope it will be resolved on a national level. The lack of certainty in this situation makes it hard for transit and logistics businesses to exist,’ says Zeltiņš.

Linkaits also adds the ministry has received feedback from different businesses about Latvia’s banking system being too strict.

«There are reasons why it is this way. I hope very much the banking industry will become more understanding towards the transit business specifics and the group of countries with which we have to cooperate purely objectively,» said the minister.

On 9 December 2019, based on the so-called Magnitsky Law, OFAC imposed sanctions against a number of persons and their organizations in Europe, Asia and Latin America, including Lembergs, for corruption.

On 18 December 2019, OFAC announced removal of sanctions from Ventspils Freeport and Ventspils Freeport authority.

Sanctions were lifted from Ventspils Freeport after Lembergs stepped down from his positions in the board of the freeport and Latvian government took measures to exclude his influence over the port, according to the statement released by the US Department of the Treasury.


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