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Wednesday 22.01.2020 | Name days: Austris

What is Ventspils Development Agency and what will its members do now?

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Ventspils Development Agency, sanctions, USA, OFAC, Aivars Lembergs, corruptionAmong the organizations against which US Department of Treasury Office for Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) has adopted sanctions is also Ventspils Development Agency (VAA). In accordance with OFAC issued Global Magnitsky General Licence Nr.1, global partners have 30 days to cease all cooperation with this organization.

However, among VAA members are multiple companies owned by Ventspils municipality. For years they’ve paid generous fees to VAA.

Membership in VAA is not a cheap pleasure. For example, municipal company LLC Kurzeme Philarmonic has paid VAA EUR 40 000 every year since 2014. Other VAA members also include LLC Olympic Centre Ventspils (OC Ventspils), who is controlled by the municipality (52.68%) and Latvian Olympic Committee. In spite of the fact that OC Ventspils works with very serious losses (in 2018 they were equal to EUR 576 086), it still manages to afford membership in VAA.

Among VAA members are also Ventspils Freeport authority, Ventspils University College and North Kuzeme Vocational Education Competence Centre Ventspils Tehnikums. Their operations depend on funding from the state and municipality. VAA also has Aivars Lembergs, Ventspils Freeport CEO Imants Sarmulis, Lembergs deputy Guntis Blumbergs, OC Ventspils ex-chief Uldis Boitmanis, Lembergs’ married friend Kristīne, VAA director Lilita Seimuškāne and Ventspils University College professor Jānis Sīlis as members.

The fact that for years VAA has collected considerable amounts of money from municipal companies largely dependent on Lembergs’ favour and for years Lembergs has been paid a very generous wage by VAA (since 2001 he has been paid EUR 1 065 000) has been reported by Ventspils City Council opposition deputies to Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry, Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau and the Office of the Prosecutor on multiple occasions. So far, however, there’s been no reaction.

Read also: Aivars Lembergs may be forced out of Latvian Olympic Committee

However, the most topical question now is what VAA members will do now that USA has imposed sanctions – will they leave the organization?

When asked by in regards to her organization’s future steps and whether there are plans to remain a member of VAA and continue paying membership fees, LLC Kurzeme Philharmonic director Sigita Migoļa responded in writing: «LLC Kurzeme Philharmonic found out about what you mentioned from information available in public space. So far LLC Kurzeme Philharmonic has not been provided with any official information about this case. Once precise information has been provided, decisions will be made.»

Kārlis Krēsliņš, the rector at Ventspils University College, told the portal that so far the university has not been an active member in VAA, adding that their lawyers are busy considering exit options. «We have no cooperative work done with VAA,» he said. «We are located in Ventspils, but we are a state university. We comply with all international and state laws and regulations that are binding to us.» When asked if they pay membership fees to Ventspils Development Agency, Krēsliņš said no financial operations have taken place in recent time.

Ventspils Tehnikums vice-director Uldis Bergmanis said on Wednesday, 11 December, a letter was received from the State Treasury and the decision was made to not pay membership fees to VAA.

Ventspils Tehnikums is also considering leaving VAA entirely.

The most sensible response received from OC Ventspils director Jurģis Liepājnieks: ‘No comment’. This means it is unknown if OC Ventspils plans to remain a member of VAA, thereby subjecting itself to potential OFAC sanction risks.

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  1. Zerry says:

    That looks like mafia action. For what those companies are paying? Tens of thousands, what will they get for that? Looks like Lembergs is like a kind if “godfather” of his clan.

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