The court complied with the prosecutors' request and imprisoned Lembergs
This request was made by prosecutors at the end of the debate. They justified the application of a security measure - arrest - on the grounds that A. Lembergs could escape from the country.
A.Lembergs replied publicly that he had been to all continents except Antarctica during these 12 years of litigation with the permission of the court. Consequently, if he had intended to flee, he would have done that a long time ago, without waiting for the prosecutors' debate to end and for a conviction. Consequently, attributing such an intention to A. Lembergs is, to put it mildly, unfounded.
Anrijs Lembergs and Ansis Sormulis left the courtroom without restrictions.
Property - the essence of criminal proceedings!
The court found A. Lembergs guilty under Article 164 and certain other articles of the Criminal Code, as well as Articles 195, 326 and 219 of the Criminal Law.
The court acquitted A. Lembergs on charges under Articles 325 and 318 of the Criminal Law.
The court sentenced him to five years' imprisonment and a fine of 40 minimum monthly wages (20,000 euros), as well as confiscation of property.
Entrepreneur Anrijs Lembergs was found guilty by the court in the charges against him under Articles 195 and 326 of the Criminal Law, sentenced to 2 years and one month in prison and confiscation of property.
Ansis Sormulis has been sentenced to only 2 years in prison with confiscation of property.
Most of the abridged judgment (more than an hour) was spent reading the list of confiscated property. The court fully supported the logic of the famous Rudolfs Meroni and prosecutors on the issue of what is "property". Namely, the court decided to confiscate the allegedly seized, allegedly "transferred" without "actually transferring" anything "true beneficiary rights", "bearer shares", which no longer exist, as well as the right of claim and the right to receive loans.
Basically, the court considers that the entire list of property should be confiscated, as compiled by R. Meroni, on the basis of which the list of seized property was compiled by prosecutor Juris Juriss.
But this is sharply dissonant with the court's announced side decision - to instruct the State Police to assess whether to initiate criminal proceedings against R. Meroni for non-compliance with the court decision of 17 August 2020 (i.e., transfer of the seized property to the Provision State Agency).
Among other things, courtroom number 32, where the abridged judgment was read, housed a strangely large number of people under the Covid-19 pandemic rules. If this were to happen in supermarkets or other places, very severe administrative penalties would be imposed.
What is he accused of?
Of course, just mentioning the articles of the Criminal Code and the Criminal Law does not explain anything about what A. Lembergs is actually accused of.
The main accusation against A. Lembergs is that in 1993-1995 he extorted as a bribe the stocks of two foreign companies and the shares of two companies registered in Latvia from his then friends and business partners - Ainārs Gulbis, Valentīns Kokalis, Vladimirs Krastiņš, as well as from SIA Man-Tess, which at that time belonged to Jūlijs Krūmiņš.
The four millionaires only remembered these acts of "violence" and "extortion" in 2008, when prosecutors probably asked them about it in a leading manner: "Wasn't it the case that you were extorted out of your shares and stocks?"
If this was the case, then it is, as has been said many times in court, that the prosecutors first prosecuted and only then obtained the necessary testimony.
Of course, after such a question from prosecutors, four millionaires even forgot that the next 15 years (i.e., between 1993 and 2008) after the extortion of shares and stocks they were quite friendly with A. Lembergs for a longer or shorter period - relaxing in exotic lands together with families; sitting at the same feast table without fear of poison; gone hunting without fear of a bullet; sitting naked on a sauna bench without fear of a knife in the back; have concluded large deals.
Even naked on the sauna bench together!
It was said in court that in 1995 A. Lembergs and A. Gulbis had a friendly holiday vacation with their families in the Caribbean.
Witnesses testified in court that V. Kokalis and A. Lembergs were very good friends and hunting partners - co-owners of the hunting club Mētras-1.
This continued until about 2000, when V. Kokalis was removed from the position of the only member of the board of SIA LatRosTrans and in this removal V. Kokalis saw “Lembergs' finger”, although he himself admitted in court that A. Lembergs was not alone in deciding this matter.
At that time, the Latvian oil pipeline manager SIA LatRosTrans was co-owned by SJSC Ventspils Nafta (66%) and the powerful Russian state-owned oil transit company Transnefteprodukt (34%), without whose consent members of the board could be neither appointed nor removed. Then it turns out that, in Kokalis mind, A. Lembergs also commanded the Russian government? Yes, something like that could be deduced from V. Kokalis' testimony.
But the fact that these gentlemen even sat naked on a sauna bench together is not some story or a metaphor made up by journalists. Valentīns Kokalis testified in court that his associate - the former director of the state-owned company Ventspils Nafta and kind of a co-owner of SIA Puses Jānis Blažēvičs - had already in those ancient times (the early 1990s) recorded a conversation between the partners of this business. When it was revealed, they only talked about money naked on the sauna bench.
Such was the testimony in court - so to speak, the oath has been taken - of Valentīns Kokalis, a former Ventspils prosecutor who now corresponds to the position of Ventspils chief prosecutor, a state justice adviser (i.e., a status that does not disappear upon losing his position).
Closing deals worth a million with an extorter?
In turn, for Vladimirs Krastiņš, who has been recognized as a victim, has been lent huge amounts by the children of A. Lembergs without collateral. It was also stated in court that Vladimirs Krastiņš had paid a security deposit for A. Lembergs on his own initiative in the autumn of 2006 (thus 11 years after the alleged extortion). What is this, some sort of Stockholm Syndrome?
However, later V. Krastiņš had an argument with A. Lembergs' children about an exclusive plot of land in Jūrmala, next to the residence of the Russian Embassy, and then prosecutors could persuade V. Krastiņš to testify "about the extortion of shares in SIA LatTransnafta in January 1995".
Public sources, on the other hand, show how in 1998 (i.e., at least 3 years after the alleged extortion of the shares of SIA LatTransnafta described in the indictment) SIA Man-Tess, owned by Jūlijs Krūmiņš, and the association Ventspils Development Agency led by A. Lembergs bought together newspaper Rīgas Balss and sponsored the Latvian New Party (Jaunā partija) election campaign in the 1998 7th Saeima elections.
Would such transactions really be possible if the extortion of the shares of SIA LatTransnafta had actually taken place?
It should also be reminded that the owners of SIA Man-Tess changed. The new owners performed an in-depth audit, which revealed that at the beginning of 1995 SIA Man-Tess did not own any shares in SIA LatTransnafta because they had not been paid at all.
Is it possible to extort something that does is not owned at all?
SIA Man-Tess asked to revoke the status of a victim, however - nothing came from that, it had to suffer until the end, only it did not receive money in compensations.
Millionaires achieved their goals
But the crowning glory of this lawsuit was Jūlijs Krūmiņš's statement during the questioning in court that he, Ainārs Gulbis and Arnolds Laksa had once turned to the prosecutor's office, giving incriminating testimonies so that Aivars Lembergs would not become Prime Minister! After the announcement, everything was done so that Jūlijs Krūmiņš would no longer appear in person in the so-called Lembergs case for questioning.
Do all these facts not at least lead to reasonable doubt as to whether this extortion has in fact taken place?
It turns out that this did not cause the court any reasonable doubts, as A. Lembergs was convicted at the first instance that he had indeed extorted shares from the said gentlemen in 1993-1995.
In addition, three millionaires have been ordered to receive compensation for this extortion. Well, not 7.5 billion, as Ainārs Gulbis demanded, or millions, as the others demanded. However, they can count on getting a little.
A.Gulbis was awarded 22,156 euros and 96 cents in compensation - instead of 7.5 billion and 9.3 million.
As compensation in favor of Vladimirs Krastiņš, the court ordered 36,425.52 euros (asked for 1,17 million).
The least was for the former friend of A. Lembergs' family Valentīns Kokalis, who demanded a million. Namely, if the other court instances also agree with this verdict, he will receive only 5.5 thousand. Is it better than nothing? Since SIA Man-Tess started to tell during the trial that there was no extortion and therefore did not get anything at all?
The dream of Tobago is at an end
The next and most serious charge is under Article 195 (3), money laundering.
The substance of the case. One of the allegedly extorted companies - SIA LatTransnafta - accumulated significant assets (oil tanks were built), which in 1999 were sold to the physically adjacent SJSC Ventspils Nafta.
The existence of SIA LatTransnafta no longer made sense; its share capital was reduced to a minimum, but the amount by which the share capital was reduced was paid to the shareholders of SIA LatTransnafta. A significant amount was also paid to Kaywood, a company owned by Anrijs Lembergs, inherited from Vitāls Lejiņš.
This money was gradually invested in the construction of the Ventspils shopping center Tobago (now Rimi) over several years.
Prosecutor Juris Juriss treats transactions with money that came from the sale of the assets of SIA LatTransnafta and for which the Tobago shopping center was built as money laundering, looking at these transactions through the prism of 2005, when Article 195 (3) was included in the Criminal Law.
During the court debates, it was repeatedly stated that prosecutor J. Juriss treats money laundering in the Lembergs case indictment completely differently than he described it in his doctoral dissertation…
Of course, the main thing is that initially there must be proceeds of crime, in this case - the court must admit that A. Lembergs did in fact extort the shares of SIA LatTransnafta at the beginning of 1995 from…?
Well, it's not easy here anymore, because in this episode, prosecutors have thrown legal entities together with natural persons in a bag that is difficult to follow, and not only that.
It follows from the accusation that the shares of SIA LatTransnafta were extorted out of Ainārs Gulbis (he did not own these shares; they belonged to AS Naftas Parks-100, whose shareholder was also the company SWH Riga Zurich AG, which allegedly belonged to A. Gulbis, but whose shareholder was also A. Lembergs, therefore - as if extorted from himself), from SIA Man-Tess (however, several procedural documents state that they were extorted not from SIA, but from a natural person Jūlijs Krūmiņš), from Vladimirs Krastiņš (to whom these shares were initially given in exactly the same way as Kaywood - for services), as well as from Banka Baltija, whose once-mighty directors Aleksandrs Lavents and Tālis Freimanis once categorically denied in court that something could ever be extorted out of Banka Baltija.
Actually, a large co-owner of SIA LatTransnafta was also a foreign company owned by the members of the Board of SJSC Ventspils Nafta. Prosecutors believe that the company's shares were not extorted, but that they were gifted quite legally in this case. Why such inconsistency?
Such is this complicated story. Its main point - if the court did not recognize that the shares of SIA LatTransnafta were really extorted at the beginning of 1995, then there would be no money laundering and heavy penalties could not be imposed - most importantly, with confiscation of property!
We now see that the court has agreed that money laundering has taken place and that the Tobago shopping center is recognized as illegally acquired property.
Why should you declare what you don't own?
Aivars Lembergs is also accused of failing to declare the shares of more than 20 foreign companies in his declarations for 2001-2007.
But why should he declare them if he doesn't own them?
These are the same shares and stocks that were "seized" and "transferred" to Rudolfs Meroni.
The difference is that in a number of companies the "rights of the real beneficiary" have been "seized", but the accusation states that A. Lembergs owned real shares and stocks.
It was clearly and unequivocally testified in court about this seized "property" that it did not belong to Aivars, but to Anrijs and Līga Lemberga.
Among other things, in the late 1990s there was a great public ruckus in the mass media that Aivars Lembergs gifted a large part of his property to his children, but Andris Šķēle transferred a large part of his property to the management of the trust (similarly to Donald Trump, who became a USA President) in exchange for a bill of exchange.
The court of the first instance has now decided that A. Lembergs has submitted a false declaration of a public official because he had owned all the “property” that the prosecutors had indicated in the accusation by what R. Meroni said.
Of course - if the court were to find that it does not belong to A. Lembergs, then how could it be confiscated?
"Good decisions" cannot be revealed
Aivars Lembergs was also accused of participating as a public official - the mayor of Ventspils and the chairman of the board of the Freeport of Ventspils - in making about 300 decisions regarding companies in which he and his children could have property interests.
Well, yes, the public should really know about this, what were those decisions about and for whose benefit they were actually made - to fill Lembergs' "pockets" or in the interests of the state and society? However, nothing - the accusation does not reveal the essence of these decisions, the documents of the criminal case are not accompanied by documents explaining the decisions.
When Aivars Lembergs began to testify about these decisions in court, the prosecutors changed the charge for the second time during this trial, because the “factual circumstances” in these decisions had become “lighter”. There were no “property interests” of A. Lembergs in these decisions, however, there were “personal interests”.
As A. Lembergs continued to testify as to what the decisions were, the court interrupted him as many as 100 times in one court hearing, stating that he did not have to testify to the "good decisions" in which A. Lembergs had taken part.
The court has now acquitted A. Lembergs in this section of the indictment.
How can the public now find out what decisions prosecutors accused A. Lembergs of?
Instead of the Order - a criminal charge
A.Lembergs was also charged under Article 318 (2) with "commiting intentional acts using his or her official position in bad faith, if such acts cause substantial harm to State power or administrative order".
The substance of the case is as follows. Edmunds Krastiņš, the Minister of Finance of the People's Party (Tautas partija) led by Andris Šķēle, which came to power in 1999, refused to give the state guarantee included in the State Budget Law for loans intended for the development of the Freeport of Ventspils - for the construction of a container terminal. At that time, as is well known, there was a war between the so-called Ventspils (leader A. Lembergs) and Valmiera (leader A. Šķēle) groups.
In those years, banks did not provide loans without guarantees even to such a rich state structure as the Freeport of Ventspils Authority.
Then a company owned by Anrijs Lembergs, taking a risk, paid a deposit to the bank as a guarantee for loans, for which a container terminal was actually built in the state-owned port of Ventspils.
However, interest on cash deposits with the bank is paid in any case, whether the deposit is made simply to earn interest on the deposit, or whether the depositor has taken a very high risk, guaranteeing loans for which important state infrastructure is being built. According to the prosecutor, receiving this deposit interest was "abuse of office", and the construction of the container terminal caused "substantial harm to State power or administrative order". Well, even the court didn't believe this one.