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Wednesday 01.04.2020 | Name days: Dagne, Dagnis

Ventspils opposition: Lembergs continues using Ventspils City Council for his interests despite sanctions

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Aivars Lembergs, Aivis Landmanis, Ivars Landmanis, Ventspils City Council, corruption, sanctions, USA, OFAC, inaction, recommended«Latvia’s problem is that authorities are focused only on areas in which the person under sanctions – Aivars Lembergs – has ownership rights. At the same time, authorities do not look towards the state of his control and influence through politician, associations and state institutions after having been applied with sanctions.» Ventspils City Council opposition deputies Aivis and Ivars Landmanis explain to BNN the situation in Ventspils City Council and legal persons associated with Lembergs after US sanctions.

How would you comment US sanctions on Aivars Lembergs?

The application of US sanctions is the consequence of Latvia’s lasting inability to combat comprehensive corruption. In this case this is about the corruption committed by Aivars Lembergs using Ventspils City Council, its structural units, capital companies, associations, Ventspils Freeport authority and his influence over state administration structures – institutions (including law enforcement), ministries, the government, Saeima and political parties, Ventspils opposition deputy Aivis Landmanis told BNN.

Opposition deputy Ivars Landmanis stresses is that the problem is that the state has been able to ensure a fast trial for Lembergs’ criminal case. This has allowed him to continue illegally performing state official’s duties, for abuse of which he has been presented with serious charges. On top of that, it happened in a time when he was prohibited from doing that.

Because of this, for years the person under sanctions has continued discriminating and illegally limiting the work of opposition deputies, which is something that has been reported to Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry and other important state institutions, Ivars and Aivis Landmanis say.

It should be added that on 3 January 2020 Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce sent individual letters to all Ventspils City Council deputies, detailing the sanctions imposed against Lembergs by OFAC and the possible effect the sanctions may have on the work of the city council.

What was the reaction from Ventspils City Council deputies after sanctions were imposed against Lembergs?

Nothing changes in Ventspils City Council, says Ivars Landmanis. According to him, Lembergs remains in charge of the city council and its structures, he continues approving their budgets by approving spending priorities, and uses public funds to pay media (especially ones under his control), to spread his subjective opinions, etc.

«As for the city council’s so-called reaction to the minister’s letter – on 10 January there was an extraordinary meeting of Ventspils City Council, during which there was an attempt at imitating reduction of Lembergs’ influence,» says Aivis Landmanis.

Lembergs left the City Planning Affairs Committee and was appointed to the Social Affairs Committee. «Lembergs and deputies 100% under his control decided not to respond to our invitation to put down his mandate, of course,» Aivis Landmanis continues.

Read also: Pūce still waiting for Ventspils City Council’s reaction to sanctions against Lembergs

«Although a considerably amount of time has passed for the ministry responsible for this sector to act, they are still waiting for an ‘impossible signal’ from Ventspils City Council’s coalition deputies. Their opinion will not change. Having followed the city council’s activities for so long, Pūce should know this and should start helping Ventspils City Council through interference from the ministry,» Ivars and Aivis Landmanis say.

According to Ivars Landmanis, Lembergs’ Defence Machine is on. It is operated by his vice-chairmen Jānis Vītoliņš, Guntis Blumbergs, Didzis Ošenieks, executive director Aldis Ābele and other members of For Latvia and Ventspils – Uldis Boitmanis, Ilze Buņķe, Igeta Gredzena, Andris Grigalis and Aigo Gūtmanis.

Aivis Landmanis believes these people have to take responsibility for the man accused of serious crimes continuing to act as deputy of Ventspils City Council, Ventspils City Council chairman and Ventspils Freeport authority chairman, because without support of these people Lembergs would not have been able to put himself in high positions and without their participation he could not have become the leader of For Latvia and Ventspils.

Ivars Landmanis: «Respectively, the aforementioned persons are also co-responsible for consequences of US sanctions. These persons – 100% loyal to Lembergs – continue provoking the situation with their actions, creating additional risks for Latvia, such as being grey-listed by Moneyval

What should have been done and what responsible institutions should do?

Aivis Landmanis: «While performing duties as Ventspils City Council deputy, together with colleagues we have kept Latvian state institutions informed of the illegalities in Ventspils City Council (since 2005) and we have experienced a complete inability and unwillingness from them to change this situation.»

«This is why I am not surprised over what is detailed in OFAC report – that Lembergs controls structures using political parties and corrupted politicians and systematically uses structures and persons to gain personal benefits, that Lembergs has used his influence over managements of political parties to compose management personnel and put specific people in leading posts to undermine other officials’ chances of receiving important posts, and that Lembergs has influenced and corrupted officials of law enforcement institutions to protect his interests and undermine politicians he cannot control.»

Ivars Landmanis: «The government needs to resolve one of the biggest unresolved problems – Lembergs’ illegal influence over Ventspils City Council, its structural units, deputies, leaders and specialists.»

Officials involved in management of associations of organizations under sanctions represent a special problem, as their participation helped lay the foundation for Lembergs’ will in the municipal administration and its structural units, including Ventspils Freeport authority, Ivars Landmanis continues.

«As we’ve mentioned previously, the bare minimum of what needs to be done is checking if Lembergs’ vices Jānis Vītoliņš, Guntis Blumbergs, Didzis Ošenieks, the city council’s executive director Aldis Ābele and other municipal deputies from For Latvia and Ventspils should not be held accountable for consequences from sanctions, as they continue securing Lembergs’ illegal influence and misappropriation of municipal funds,» Ivars and Aivis Landmanis say.

Aivis Landmanis reminds that many standing and regular Ventspils City Council position officials’ committed violations have served as the reason for the decision made in April 2019 by four opposition deputies to ask VARAM to initiate the dismissal of Ventspils City Council.

«At the time VARAM’s response was limited to asking an explanation from Ventspils City Council and meeting with us, Venspils City Council opposition deputies. No action followed – VARAM did not normalize the situation. The ministry did not use its rights to request an extraordinary meeting and, as far as we know, the ministry has not presented any legislative initiatives to normalize the situation,» reminds Aivis Landmanis.

Excuses made by the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) regarding allegedly disorganized laws also sound comical than anything else, notes Aivis Landmanis.

«Excuses with holes in laws are unacceptable, because the ministry, KNAB and other Latvian state institutions have been kept informed of the problems in Ventspils since 2005. Because VARAM should also take responsibility for consequences, I believe the ministry is the institution that should do all it can to ensure Ventspils City Council and its structures are freed from influence coming from Lembergs and his party For Latvia and Ventspils. If necessary, Ventspils City Council should be dismissed and a new team composed instead. Comprehensive revisions should be performed, damages caused to Ventspils City Council and its structures should be surveyed and relevant officials should be held accountable.»

Ivars Landmanis: «US sanctions outline an unprecedented case, which is why the state’s response should be fast and efficient. Ventspils City Council needs to be freed from the criminally accused, legally limited Aivars Lembergs and his puppets. The guilty should be punished.»

Landmanis reminded BNN of the violations Ventspils City Council opposition had reported to state institutions (including VARAM) and which did not receive an appropriate response from state institutions, perhaps thereby provoking US sanctions, which will impact Latvia’s image and its economy:

«Remainder of Aivars Lembergs, who is accused of serious crimes, as chairman of Ventspils City Council and illegal imitation of work by his vices in a time when the chairman is present at work is illegal and unacceptable. Following our invitation to study this topic, the 27 June 2017 meeting of Ventspils City Council was attended by VARAM Municipalities Department director Aivars Mičuls and legal affairs department director Kaspars Circis. They did not want to spot the problem and continued ‘legalizing’ Aivars Lembergs’ and his team’s illegal oddities.»

«The security measure applied to Aivars Lembergs – the ban on performing duties of chairman of Ventspils City Council and Ventspils Freeport authority – has been ignored by him since its application (2007) to this day, now that US sanctions have been applied on top of them. Ventspils City Council deputy Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis has battled the city council in court over the situation with using media financed by the municipality, including illegally using the city council’s website to promote Lembergs and defame his opponents, and has secured accomplishments in several court instances. VARAM has been informed of this, but in spite of evidence proving Lembergs’ breach of security measures and court rulings the ministry has done nothing to prevent violations.»

«There is also the illegal delegation of Ventspils City Council functions to committees and councils, ignoring the rights of opposition deputies and voters backed by the Constitution. This and other oddities are embedded in Ventspils City Council’s binding rules No.3 By-laws of Ventspils City Municipality. Its illegal regulations have been considered legal by VARAM for a long time in spite of objections from opposition deputies. As a result, opposition deputies have been illegally excluded from full participation in the city council’s work for several terms. VARAM is well-informed of the story regarding the court battle between the city council and its opposition deputies over their rights and accomplishments. In spite of this, VARAM has not reacted to this and has not acted to prevent the breach of the Constitution, laws and regulations in the work of Ventspils City Council. The ministry still has not cancelled the limiting by-laws of the city council.»

«For a long time VARAM has been informed of the use of Ventspils Development Agency, Business Development Association, Latvian Transit Business Association and previously under sanctions Ventspils Freeport authority for Lembergs’ personal interests. The ministry was also informed of the legal persons that were later added to the list of US sanctions in 2019 well in advance. Unfortunately, in these matters, even in spite of provided evidence, VARAM has not done a thing.»

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