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Linkaits: creation of Ventas osta will be halted after studying OFAC decision

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Aivars Lembergs, sanctions, USA, Tālis Linkaits, Magnitsky law, Ventas osts, Ventspils Freeport, OFAC

Latvia’s Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits

The decision regarding the cancellation of the order to create state company Ventas osta to take over Ventspils Freeport authority’s duties and functions will be made once the government has studied the decision made by the US Department of Treasury Office for Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) to exclude Ventspils Freeport authority from the list of sanctions, said Latvia’s Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits in an interview to Latvijas Radio on Thursday, 19 December.

«It is logical to believe that such a structure is no longer needed, but first we want to know what considerations went into the foundation for the US side’s decision [to lift sanctions from Ventspils Freeport authority], so that we avoid a situation when we cancel something that served as the main reason why OFAC made its decision,» said Linkaits.

He also said so far OFAC’s decision to include Ventspils Freeport authority to the list of sanctions has not caused any major impact.

The minister also mentioned there were no interruptions in cooperation the port’s long-standing partners. Only some ship owners decided to skip Ventspils port over sanctions against Ventspils Freeport authority.

«Long-standing partners demonstrated they have an interest to continue cooperation. This means there were no interruptions there. Multiple ship owners had changed their routes to avoid Ventspils Freeport because of caution. We have prevented such risks from repeating in the future and I expect this decision will not have caused any considerable damage,» said Linkaits.

BNN had previously reported that the Freeport of Ventspils Authority has been removed from the US list of sanctions.

According to Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, USA made this decision after detailed talks with Latvia’s embassy in USA, the ministry and other institutions, as well as after surveying all performed and planned measures by Latvia’s government to prevent the influence of people under US sanctions over Ventspils Freeport and Ventspils Freeport authority.

«This means Ventspils Freeport authority, Ventspils Freeport and companies active at the port are able to continue operations unhindered,» said the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

At the same time, OFAC sanctions remain in force for Ventspils Development Agency, Business Development Association and Latvian Transit Business Association.

In response to Ventspils Freeport authority’s addition to the list of sanctions, Saeima amended laws to have Ventspils Freeport and Riga Freeport taken over by the state. On Tuesday, 17 December, the government supported Transport Ministry’s proposal to found a new state company to take over management of Ventspils port territory and operations.

On Monday, 9 December, US Department of Treasury Office for Foreign Asset Control, based on the so-called Magnitsky law, established sanctions against a number of private persons and their organizations in Europe, Asia and Latin America. Aivars Lembergs is among those people.

The Magnitsky Law was signed by then the US President Barack Obama on 14 December 2012. It allows US authorities to arrest assets owned by people accused of violating human rights and suspected of corruption, as well as deny them entry to USA.

«For years corruption has slowed Latvia’s economy, taking away money from public services intended for Latvia’s residents and allowing criminals to damage Latvia’s state and NATO alliance,» the statement mentions.

It is also stressed that USA has cooperated with Latvia’s government in efforts to prevent corruption.

OFAC has issued a Global Magnitsky General License No.1, which allows for limiting transactions performed by Ventspils Freeport Authority, Ventspils Development Agency, Business Development Association and Latvian Transit Business Association for 30 days.

In accordance with the sanctions, all properties owned by Lembergs and aforementioned entities, shares in properties and in entities owned directly or indirectly individually, or with the mediation of other persons, where their shares exceed 50%, which are located in the USA or are owned or controlled by persons of the USA, are blocked and have to be reported to the OFAC.

This means all transactions to and from Ventspils Freeport authority, Ventspils Development Agency, Business Development Association and Latvian Transit Business Association will be blocked.

More on this topic: Ralfs Kļaviņš and Edvīns Bērziņš leave the board of Latvian Transit Business Association

Meanwhile, Aivars Lembergs has also decided to step down as chairman of the board of Venspils Freeport board, Latvian Olympic Committee and Basketball Club Ventspils.

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