A look back | Where did the criminally prosecuted ex-mayor of Ventspils get all of his money?

Opinion piece from Ventspilnieks.lv
People who serve [suspended and criminally prosecuted ex-mayor of Ventspils Aivars] Lembergs as PR agents and trolls try convince people that their client is a victim of political intrigues and that all deals associated with him are legitimate and transparent.
Ventspilnieks.lv portal decided to study publicly accessible information about the origin of Aivars Lembergs’ wealth and political influence.
One of the most curious sources to study was the book Ēnas pār Ventspili [Shadows over Ventspils] (1996) by once the member of the Supreme Council Viļis Seleckis. The publicist then did what he could to pull the book from circulation. Fragments and excerpts from this book can be found in the book Kas ir Lembergs [Who is Lembergs] (2006) by Lato Lapsa and Kristīne Jančevska. The interview with V.Seleckis included in the book offers a hint as to why it was necessary to pull the initial issue of the book.
-Is he a person to be feared?
-Try writing the truth about these people: Šķēle and Lembergs! There will be blood and… if you even manage to finish. You think they’ve made it this far without bloodshed?
Where did the money come from?
Lembergs’ prosperity likely comes from the payments Moscow paid Ventspils for the transportation of dangerous chemical freights in 1990. These payments were measured in hundreds of thousands of US dollars. The chairman of the executive committee responsible for the money was Lembergs. Journalist Ināra Egle wrote about this at the time: «The city’s deputies have no power, finances or opportunities. They don’t even know how much money in foreign currency goes past the city’s budget.» The leader of LTF at the time Māris Pamše said in 1991: «The man has control over hundreds of millions in foreign currency the government and parliament have no idea about.»
Read also: BNN ANALYSES | An imprisoned «mayor». A look at Aivars Lembergs’ activities
«A hidden and silent privatisation commenced in 1992. Ventspils is not a large city. People saw and heard a lot. There was a lot of rumours about A.Lembergs founding private firms. He denied this, of course. It was a bluff.» This is from the first edition of Shadows over Ventspils.
Vitals Lejiņš’s inheritance
The next major turn is 1997, when Lembergs became a legal millionaire thanks to the inheritance from his former schoolmate Vitals Lejiņš. The latter owned SIA Inter-Riga, which was engaged in office equipment sector. Inheritance documents stated that from 1993 onward he signed major contracts and lent large amounts of money almost every month. Where did this person get so much money if archives of the University of Latvia show that in university he received a very modest wage? For example, in 1994 and 1995 he was paid 36.25 LVL a month.
According to one version, Lembergs lent money to his ex-schoolmate so that he could afford base capital to found Inter-Riga and in return he asked to accumulate Lembergs’ finances and list them in his will and testament.
Lejiņš later wanted to annul the previous agreement, but he never managed… The former chairman of Latvian Shipping Company Druvis Skulte told the following version in 2006: «When the first money came from Russia, which Lembergs had no way of laundering as a municipal official. He was even scared at first. Lejiņš was the channel he needed.»
State finances «fall into» an intermediary company
In 1997 state company Ventspils nafta (VN) was active in Ventspils. 37% of shares were owned by Latvijas Naftas tranzīts (LNT). So why let the state reap the profits when you can just diver the money to the business you own? Thus Ventspils Transit Service was born. VN and LNT officials offered VN clients use the company’s services through a mediator – Ventspils Transit Service. Clients received payment discounts for every ton carried by the mediator company. In 2001 Ventspils Transit Service was replaced in this scheme by British Virgin Isles-based Trans Oil System.
Political «cover» and 5%
In 2006 multiple searches were performed as part of the investigation of Lembergs’ criminal case. It was during this search authorities confiscated the hard drive from the computer used by Ventspils transit companies’ accountant Gita Grasmane. The hard drive contained volumes of information regarding the schemes and diversion of profits from VN, as well as the 5% of profits diverted from this artificially created mediator company towards corruption of legal and private persons.
G.Grasmane’s corruption fund table is already partially or fully decrypted. In most cases the group used nicknames, but in some cases there were political parties, names and surnames of people associated with parties or posts in state institutions mentioned as well. In her testimony Grasmane referenced «memory loss», surface reading of documents she was presented by Laimonis Junkers, who died under unclear circumstances. Lembergs, on the other hand, claimed that over many years Grasmane had indulged in her fantasies in those Excel spread sheats.
At the same time, Lembergs’ former business partners and «managers» of the cash going through the fund confirm the existence of the 5% corruption fund and its use to bribe politicians.
The aforementioned is nothing new. There have been public talks about it for years, even during the review of Lembergs’ criminal case. During all this time he continued influencing political processes in the country in spite of the ban imposed by the court to perform duties as chairman of Ventspils City Council. On top of that, he continued receiving considerable income from companies and associations under US sanctions.
The amounts received are considerable – from Baltic Business Association he has received about EUR 2.7 million in a period of 16 years; from Ventspils Development Agency he has received about EUR 1 065 000 since 2001 and from Latvian Transit Business Association he has received a total of EUR 262 662 since 2000.
In 1996, according to state official’s declaration, Aivars Lembergs owned only one piece of land with forest stands in the countryside of Piltene, an unspecified number of certificates and shares of a bank that later became Nord/LB and cash savings of LVL 75 000. And that’s it.