RIGA - Latvia's top prosecutor said that raiding the office and residences of Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs has provided fresh evidence in the ongoing corruption probe, while the mayor responded by blasting the accusations as politically motivated and claiming the size of his bail was exorbitant. Prosecutor General Janis Maizitis, speaking in an interview to Dienas Bizness, described the raids in the port city of Ventspils as successful.
"Additional evidence and facts were obtained for the existing charges and an investigation of the criminal case in general," Maizitis said.
The prosecutor general said that documents found during the searches contained information about the private life of several individuals, including a prosecution representative. "So now we can talk about the methods that Lembergs uses to fight the investigation and, possibly, other violations," stated Maizitis.
He added that the searches had also provided prosecutors with documents and evidence that would help prove bribery and money laundering charges against Lembergs. "The documents that were found at locations searched suggest possible violations. We have to find out who committed those violations," said the prosecutor general.
The probe initiated over the searches, he stated, was still in the early stages, so additional charges, including violations of the personal data protection law, have not been leveled at the mayor.
On July 20, the Prosecutor General's Office brought charges against Lembergs for bribery, money laundering and abuse of powers. Prosecutors said the case was launched for repeated bribery in especially large amounts between 1993 and 1995, when Lembergs, who was already mayor at the time, allegedly accepted shares in Swiss-registered Multi Nord AG company as a bribe and later received 453,000 lats (644,500 euros) for them.
Prosecutors also claim that the Ventspils mayor used money received from bribes to do business with Kalija Parks, where Lembergs has reportedly held a secret stake since 1994.
Lembergs is also accused of using his influential position as Ventspils mayor to take important decisions concerning Kalija Parks, a company that specializes in handling potassium exports.
Lembergs, in the meantime, responded on Aug. 7 by saying that the searches conducted in Ventspils were carried out in violation of the law. He told a news conference that he had not been invited to be present during the searches and was not informed about what was seized and whether the confiscated items belonged to him.
"The seized items could just as well belong to somebody else, they could be forgotten at my office or brought by the secretary," the Ventspils mayor said.
Prosecutors reportedly started looking for Lembergs only when they had to open a safe.
Lembergs also said the bail he has been requested to pay 's 1 million lats 's was calculated improperly, as the amount of bail cannot be tied to the respective person's annual income or the "prosecutor's fantasies about damage of some kind."
"It is in contradiction with the law, as the damage is determined by the court and not the prosecutor 's these are only his delirious assumptions," Lembergs said of Maizitis.
The mayor, who is the Green and Farmers' Union's candidate for prime minister, voiced exasperation over the hefty bail, which is 33 times higher than Latvia's record bail.
"This is clear discrimination, a clear demonstration of force, to show that they can do what they please and that laws are not binding for them," Lembergs told journalists.
The mayor has described press interviews with chief prosecutor Janis Maizitis as brutal pressure on the investigating judge and moral pressure on him and his family, which, he said, is against the law on Prosecutor General.
"Presently, Maizitis is showing his personal interest and personal hatred toward me, which is politically motivated," Lembergs believes.
In the interview, Maizitis would not specify the locations searched in Ventspils. When asked whether it was true that the homes of Lembergs and his son were searched, the prosecutor general said that several residences had been searched but he would not specify.