BNN ANALYSES | An imprisoned «mayor». A look at Aivars Lembergs’ activities

Ex-mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs is behind bars. After a recent vote that took place in the Saeima, BNN has decided to remind people why it would be best if Lembergs was not let anywhere near Latvia’s parliament.
As it is known, the court of law declared Lembergs guilty of bribery, money laundering, participation in prohibited deals, document forging and hiding his true property.
This is why he was put in prison on 22 February. He currently stays in Riga Central Prison. The sentence has yet to come to force because there is no ruling made by a court of last instance. Nevertheless, Lembergs was put under arrest. It should be mentioned that courts of law apply an arrest as a security measure very rarely and in «special cases» only.
What is Lembergs up to now?
It is well-known that he continues writing letters with orders to Ventspils City Council. Lembergs refuses to leave the city council and still orders the municipal administration around even though the court has made it clear there is no possible way for him to participate in meetings of the city council from prison. This means that if such documents are sent, there is a high possibility Lembergs’ other trusted people also receive all kinds of orders.
Document sent to members of Ventspils City Council
On top of that, Lembergs demands a compensation from the state for the prohibition imposed on his right to perform duties as chairman of Ventspils City Council. He has also appealed the ruling of the court in which he is found guilty of numerous crimes.
In 2018 Latvia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that in regards to the Lembergs vs. Latvia case the European Court of Human Rights committee rejected Lembergs’ plea in regards to the possible violation of his election rights.
What about the Saeima?
One and a half years ago the Saeima received a legislative draft that would have banned Lembergs from the parliament. The legislative draft itself was about banning ex-Saeima deputies under sanctions from entering the parliament for any reason. Latvia has only one person who is under international sanctions – Aivars Lembergs.
Although 68 deputies were replaced in the last Saeima elections, the aforementioned legislative draft was not accepted. The reason is because Harmony, Union of Greens and Farmers and even New Unity voted against. Additionally, members of Attīstībai/Par! did not participate in the vote, thereby indirectly contributing to the failure.
Source: Saeima
Parliamentarian Artuss Kaimiņš went so far as to say there are more communists in the Saeima than ever before.
Other votes
Another curious case is that even though Ventspils City Council is well-aware Lembergs cannot participate in meetings they have elected him as the head of the city council’s Social Affairs Committee.
The Ministry of Environment Protection and Regional Development made it clear – Lembergs is not able to perform his duties as head of the committee.
Something similar happened with the pre-election promotion campaign during municipal elections. The court of law made it clear Lembergs will not be able to lead the city council while under arrest. However, his party – For Latvia and Ventspils – nevertheless decided to pick him as their Nr. 1 on their list of candidates.
His party members failed in an attempt to provide him with a computer while he is in prison so that he is able to fully participate in the municipal administration’s work. The prison, however, has other rules. Lembergs could not participate in the pre-election promotion campaign either. He could not walk out onto streets and convince people he «steals, but also shares, because look at how many cows there are all over the city». This reputation of his was brought about largely thanks to Ventas Balss. As BNN previously reported, millions of generous investments flow from Ventspils City Council and its capital associations towards Ventas Balss – likely to polish Lembergs’ public image. On top of that, there are other schemes aimed at investing tens of thousands of euros into this regional media in exchange for advertisement articles to promote companies controlled by Lembergs.
More on this topic: Ventas Balss – multi-million «trough» for Lembergs’ reputation
It is worth mentioning that the court of law reviewing Lembergs’ criminal case has confiscated numerous pieces of property from Lembergs. According to prosecutor Juris Juriss, the asset confiscations performed by the court in regards to Lembergs are the biggest in Latvia’s history.
As previously reported, no final ruling has been reached in Lembergs’ criminal case as of yet. However, if he is found guilty by a court of last instance, Lembergs will not be able to appeal this ruling or claim the court failed to understand everything by declaring him guilty. Additionally, he will not be able to run in elections anymore.
Dark past
Although Lembergs does his best to maintain his image of a capable leader of a city, his past has certain facts that make his image turn into a symbol of corruption, fraud and other illegalities that undermine the state.
During the investigation of Lembergs’ criminal case there were cases of investigators being spied on, as well as information leaks and witnesses turning up dead, as reported by Latvijas Radio programme Atvērtie faili.
For example, former council chairman of Ventamonjak Jurijs Bespalovs died a day prior to him coming to court to testify on document forging.
More on this topic: Retrospect: series of deaths in circle of Aivars Lembergs
BNN had an interview with Bespalovs’ business partner and Lembergs’ trustee Valentīns Kokalis, who openly said people were put in posts of ministers and that opinions and testimonies were coordinated before court hearing and the like.
«His [Lembergs’] idea was very simple – I want to control everything! People on the other side didn’t want to give away their source of income. And the only mechanism here was threats, demonstrations of power and obstacles being put in the way of businesses,» Juris Juriss told Ir magazine.
One of the most well-known sources of income for Lembergs was Ventspils Development Agency, which was put under US sanctions for its ties to him. As BNN was told by Ventspils opposition deputies, Lembergs founded this agency to launder money and secure himself a very generous pension.
Read also: BNN investigation | Raunas street property: quiet assistant with a «secret wallet» for Lembergs
Another particular episode from Lembergs life is the notorious oligarch talks. State capture, control over the media, influencing the public opinion, use of official power for selfish interests – all of this appears in talks. All this was previously published by Ir magazine. No one was punished because certain people were put into the parliamentary committee that investigated the whole affair. These people were associated with the oligarch trio – Aivars Lembergs, Andris Šķēle and Ainārs Šlesers. However, it should be said here that talks focused on putting people in the right positions of power so that it is possible to direct developments in the «right» direction.
Talks were published by Ir magazine journalists. More than 20 people were part of those talks, including the infamous trio and even ministers at the time.
Former chief editor of Diena magazine Guntis Bojārs said the aforementioned trio actively tried to manipulate public opinions. He reveals: «Viesturs Kozols, who owned shares in Diena, called me to his office once and said: ‘What do you write down? Lembergs called me just now, cursing and demanding to know what you’re doing.’»
So here it is – a little look back at Lembergs. It should be more or less clear why the court of justice decided to make such rare exception in his case – put him under arrest.