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Saturday 20.04.2019 | Name days: Mirta, Ziedīte

Portal: do «former colleagues» provide Lembergs with influence over Latvian Railway?

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUWho holds the reins over Latvia’s transit sector? One of the highest ranking officials is Latvian Railway board chairman Edvīns Bērziņš, whose career has crossed paths with Aivars Lembergs’ owned companies on several occasions ever since Latvian Shipping Company’s era. This is nothing surprising, considering Lembergs’ close ties with Latvia’s transit sector. At the same time, one must ask if Bērziņš’s presence at the top of LR is a mere coincidence, writes.

To expand his influence in the transit sector, Lembergs has put his colleague Bērziņš from Latvian Shipping Company all the way to Latvian Railway. The portal reminds that the once Latvian State Maritime Shipping in 2002 became a public company. About 50% of its shares were then procured at an auction by previously privatized company Ventspils Nafta. Currently more than 90% of Latvian Shipping Company is owned by Vitol, but for a long time Latvian Shipping Company was torn by shareholder feuds, during which Lembergs’ camp and their opponents fought one another for influence. writes that once Latvia’s Transport Ministry ended up in the hands of the Union of Greens and Farmers, then the minister Uldis Augulis with surprising speed started forming an octopus of sorts for UGF, putting ‘green farmers’ and people associated with Aivars Lembergs in nearly all of the state companies under the ministry’s direct authority. He was especially generous to Lembergs’ brothers in arms in Latvian Shipping Company.

For example, Edvīns Bērziņš was a board member in Latvian Shipping Company and the head of its Legal Affairs Department. Now he is in charge of Latvian Railway and vice-chairman of RB Rail – the company responsible for Rail Baltica project. RB Rail council also has Latvian Railway’s deputy director for administrative affairs Vineta Rudzīte, who was once deputy director of Latvian Shipping Company Legal Affairs Department. Verners Lūsis, who is suspected of tax avoidance worth EUR 48 million in Poland, was also once associated with Latvian Shipping Company. He was a board member Latvian Shipping Company’s subsidiary SIA LSC Shipmanagement and was also among people with close ties to Lembergs. Before his detainment, Lūsis was board chairman of Latvian Railway’s subsidiary LDz Logistics. After that he moved to LDz Cargo, where he was paid EUR 3,500 a month. The proposal to make Lūsis chairman of LDz Logistics came from Bērziņš. Nekā personīga programme reports that based on information from unofficial sources, Lūsis remainder in LDz Cargo was also insisted on by Edvīns Bērziņš.

Currently Bērziņš is also vice-president of Latvia’s Employers’ Confederation and council member of Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He is also present in the Latvian Transit Business Association board member, where Lembergs is president.

It is mentioned that this is not unusual practice for Latvia when the same people sit on management boards in multiple companies and associations dealing with industries’ interests and directly cooperating with the government. At the same time, it is possible that state administrative resources are often used for personal business interests, becoming lobbies for decisions of interested parties. Associations of considerable size have representatives from major businesses. However, the question is about balance and overall competitiveness of the business environment.

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