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NP: Rīgas satiksme’s fuel supplier’s beneficiary may have ties to criminal world

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUIn the past several years, Rīgas satiksme has been receiving fuel supplies from a company whose true beneficiaries, two Italians living in Monaco, were mentioned in a study carried out by international investigative journalists about the criminal world, as reported by TV3 programme Nekā Personīga.

In the past, there had been information reported by the media that Rīgas satiksme overpays for fuel. On top of that, results of a recent audit prove that fuel procurement at the company is not economically efficient. Nevertheless, RS continues procuring fuel from the same supplier.

Additionally, the research performed by international investigative journalists reveals that businessmen hiding behind offshore companies could have ties to the criminal world in Italy and Russia. Representatives of the company in Latvia deny this, Nekā Personīga reports.

Some years ago there was a petrol station located on the side of a highway in Ieriķi. Ten years ago it was bought out by businessman Māris Āriņš. His business then boomed rapidly. The company then got its hand on an opportunity to supply fuel to RS and sometime after that – to Latvian Railway, journalists explains.

This businessman also got his hands on an oil base. The territory in Sloka was previously owned by RS subsidiary Degvielas apgāds. When Nils Ušakovs was first appointed Mayor of Riga for the first two years, RS decided that oil base that was previously modernized using municipality’s money is no longer needed and sold it to Āriņš. The oil base is managed by RDZ Energy. RS continues procuring fuel from this company.

Five years ago, Nekā personīga got its hands on papers detailing fuel procurements performed by RS. Documents show that the municipal company procures fuel for a higher price than what is offered by competitors. Ušakovs promised to search for the ones responsible.

However, after Ušakovs questioned Bemhens, RDZ Energy signed a EUR 60 million fuel supply contract with RS for another five years, the programme reports.

On top of that, the company also won Economy Ministry’s organized procurement for storage of oil reserves. When the ministry had first announced the first tender, it was known that owners of the company in question include offshore companies in Malta and British Virgin Isles, as reported by Nekā personīga team.

Economy Ministry explained that there was no time to evaluate them, because the European Commission was rushing the tender. The ministry promised to evaluate next offshores.

However, in the most recent tender Economy Ministry picked strategic reserve storage company without researching offshores behind them, journalists say.

In December 2018, RDZ Energy received the opportunity to supply fuel to Riga Freeport’s Riga Freeport Fleet, which provides tugboat services at the port. The worth of the contract is EUR 2 million. The chairman of the freeport’s authority claims not knowing anything about the offshore, Nekā personīga reports.

December 2017 marked the coming into force a law that makes it mandatory for all companies that have companies registered in foreign countries as owners, including offshores, to submit information about their true beneficiaries to the Enterprise Register. Companies were supposed to do that by March 2018. However, around 2,000 companies have yet to comply with requirements of the law. This includes the company that supplies fuel to RS.

On 5 March the Enterprise Registry noticed that the true beneficiaries of two owners of RDZ Energy – Malta and British Virgin Isles-based BHC Investment Limited and Galaxy Energy Group Ltd – are Monaco-based Italian citizens Massimo Filosa and Giangiacomo Serena di Lapigio. Their names are mentioned in some document of Italian police published by OCCRP.

The document in question is mostly dedicated to Ukrainian mafia member Leonid Minin. He is suspected of smuggling, drug and arms trade, as well as money laundering. He has been blacklisted by multiple countries and is denied entry. Minin is considered one of the heads of Odessa mafia, which controls this city’s oil industry. The document also mentions that this person owns many companies working in the oil business. International investigative journalists mention a number of companies in Monaco, Luxembourg, Switzerland and elsewhere in the world associated with Minin. Among those companies is also Galaxy Energy, Nekā personīga explains.

In an e-mail sent to Nekā personīga, Āriņš recommended journalists to refrain from associating his company’s true beneficiaries from Monaco with Italian mafia, because it could be considered defamation. Both men living in Monaco are not acquainted with Minin. They have never shared a business, and they were never suspects in any criminal process together.

Riga Transports’ former manager Vadims Baraņņiks and the new one – Vadims Faļkovs – claim they know nothing of RS’s dealings with offshores.

Riga’s Vice-Mayor from Honour to Serve Riga political party believes Mayor Ušakovs’, as the supervisor of RS, practice of dealing with offshores is not good. The now former temporary chief of RS Anrijs Matīss is of a similar mind.

«This is not normal from any perspective. When I worked at RS, the true beneficiaries were not disclosed. I believe it is against the law – there is no way to sign a contract without knowing the identity of the true beneficiary. They may as well be associated with North Korea or some other country under sanctions. On top of that, the company pays money and thereby breaches restrictions imposed by the European Union. There definitely should not be contracts in which owners and actual shareholders are unclear,» Matīss told Nekā Personīga.


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