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Wednesday 08.04.2020 | Name days: Dana, Dans, Danute, Edgars

Opinion: Ventspils professional sports teams under shadow of Lembergs’ sanctions

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Aivars Lembergs, Aivis Landmanis, interview, Ventspils, basketball, football, club, financing, Saeima

Aivars Lembergs

«I think it is no secret that Ventspils basketball and football clubs are some of the biggest carriers of the influence from suspended mayor, legally limited and subjected to US sanctions Aivars Lembergs. Of course, basketball and football will remain a priority for them, but a no less important role, at least in Lembergs’ eyes, was and still is maintaining his influence and popularity on the highest possible level,» BNN was told by Ventspils City Council opposition deputy Aivis Landmanis.

Even now, after sanctions, nothing has changed much. Clubs, especially BK Ventspils, remain managed by Lembergs in spite of sanctions. The only difference is that formalities and document signing is delegated to people under his influence – members of clubs and managements, says Landmanis.

He says: «It is not without Aivars Lembergs’ care the media cultivate the opinion that the fate of Ventspils basketball and football clubs is unknown, because Ventspils Freeport authority still has not made any decision as to how funding for marketing and promotion will be used. The state, VBP board and the new management are accused of negligence towards the interests of Ventspils residents. It is reported that Ventspils basketball and football clubs have relied on promotional contracts with Ventspils Freeport authority, thereby securing the ‘lion’s share’ of funding. According to public statements from Ventspils basketball club board member Ralfs Pleinics, Ventspils football club’s CEO Sergejs Usačovs and even Lembergs, only decisions from Ventspils Freeport authority decide if it is possible to maintain established teams.»

«This way Aivars Lembergs, still subjected to sanctions, exacts pressure on Ventspils Freeport authority members, pushing them towards breaching the law, sanctions and good management principles,» says Landmanis.

«I believe he’s trying to pull Ventspils Freeport authority, which has been saved from sanctions only recently, back into the mire of corruption, putting the institution at risk of ending up under sanctions again. This is why it is dangerous for Ventspils Freeport authority to participate in fictive advertisement tenders, because it would mean performing inappropriate sections. The Freeport authority needs to do all it can to recover the trust of its clients to secure economic success for Ventspils.»

Landmanis also stresses that Lembergs is used to paying for his caprices possibly using wallets of the state, municipality and its capital associations, associations and the freeports even if it means breaching the law.

The opposition deputy also notes that the opposition of Ventspils City Council supports sports and believes sports should be on the highest possible level in Ventspils – at least on the level of children, youngsters and students. «If we can afford it, we also support high-class professional athletes, including supporting master-class teams, but only as long as this approach does not take away resources from children, youngsters and students and is not used for the benefit of selfish people.»

«We submitted a proposal at Ventspils City Council meeting of 23 January to include the topic of Ventspils basketball club’s financial problems and possible solutions. However, the topic was not discussed in depth because it was not prepared. We were promised everything possible would be done soon and the city council would decide to ask Ventspils basketball club to provide the city council with comprehensive reports,» says Landmanis.

«Whether or not it will be submitted and Ventspils residents will be provided with reports from Ventspils basketball club on use of finances – time will tell.»

He also adds: «I am convinced – the decision regarding allocation of public funds, its size, sources – can only be made once officials and Ventspils City Council deputies have gone through previous reports from those clubs, their financial situation, vision for the future and plans, and once decision-makers are confident the person under sanctions no longer has any influence over the clubs.»

«Responsibility over Ventspils basketball club and Ventspils football club should be taken by Lembergs and his associates, whose duty it is ensuring successful operation of those clubs using their private funds.»

A retrospective of support for Ventspils basketball and football clubs

Historically finances from then still state-owned port companies were diverted towards maintenance of these clubs. Later, however, private port companies and Lembergs’ loyal private port and city companies were also forced to support them. It can be said that supporting clubs managed by Lembergs and his loyal persons was also a compulsory duty if companies wanted to work at the port and within city limits, believes the deputy.

«The so-called Ventspils transit wars changed everything. The outcome of these wars was that major port companies ended up in outside Lembergs’ influence – the corruptive system built up by Lembergs started to fall apart,» explains Landmanis.

To ensure the remainder of agents serving his interests, it is entirely possible Lembergs continues dipping into Ventspils Freeport authority’s walled, creating serious risks for members of the freeport’s authority.

Landmanis also says it is likely the illegal financing of sports was not the only one of Lembergs’ will forced onto Ventspils Freeport authority, whose actual function it is to develop Ventspils port infrastructure to promote economic activity at the port and in the city. «Aside from sports, Ventspils Freeport authority was forced to maintain media controlled by Lembergs, such as Ventas Balss and Kurzemes TV. The Freeport authority was forced to pay for all kinds of Lembergs’ promotional activities in the city, invest into questionable projects, as well as follow Lembergs’ orders to participate in persecution of businessmen he doesn’t like. Respectively, everything was done to weaken Ventspils Freeport authority and make the economy surrounding it less competitive. Of course, Ventspils Freeport authority was not enough,» Landmanis explains his opinion.

«People associated with Lembergs were also active in the Saeima, ministries and the most important state transit companies, where they had likely worked to make them weaker and less competitive, like Ventspils Freeport authority.»

«Over the course of thirty years Lembergs has managed to knock out Latvia’s transit industry and the main cows in Ventspils, subjecting the wide offers of the city financed using public funds, as well as the professional basketball and football teams to serious economic risks,» says Landmanis.

«As long as Lembergs continues managing and influencing Ventspils in spite of accusations, legal restrictions and sanctions, the city will be forced to walk the road towards self-destruction,» Landmanis voices his opinion.

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  1. Bullshit media says:

    What bulsshit do u talk here? Blame latvian goverment that they took over the port and thers no more moneybto city and a sports teams in ventspils. Cause most of theyr moneybcame from free port. Now all the money goes to theses thieves…

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