TROUBLED WATERS: Vladimirs Vaskevics’ CV now includes a planned mob hit connected to his arrest on bribery allegations.
RIGA - The high profile bribery case involving high ranking Finance Ministry official Vladimirs Vaskevics could be connected to the Riga port container storage/cargo handling company Kravu Terminals, sources told the LTV1 program De Facto’s investigative reporters, reports Nozare.lv. The program aired on Feb. 6. Specifically, the sources reveal that Kravu Terminals, with several bribery payment “installments,” had wanted a specific port authority to “shirk” its duties.
This information leaves one to question Vaskevics’ story that the case is “trumped up,” as he has repeatedly claimed. The sources also say that the bribe money - 52,880 euros - was handed over several times from Dec. 26, 2010 to Jan. 30 this year, just one day before Vaskevics’ arrest.
Kravu Terminals, for its part - in the person of its board member Vasilijs Rozkovs - had paid the money to have the Customs Criminal Inspection Department Risk Management Unit carry out non-objective, i.e. false inspections at the company.
Corruption Prevention Bureau (CPB) Deputy Chief Juta Strike was put under police protection after rumors surfaced of an assassination attempt being planned against her.
Several unofficial sources have confirmed this information to Latvian Radio, saying that Strike has not just been threatened, but an assassination order has been made against her. The assassination plan against Strike is tied to last week’s arrest of Vaskevics.
Threats to Strike have been linked to the Russian Solncevas criminal gang, which has interests in Latvia, say sources in law enforcement institutions, reports Latvian daily Latvijas Avize. This group, whose leader is considered to be Sergei Mikhailov and who is also known by the nickname ‘Mihasj,’ has interests in smuggling goods into the country. The assassination plan was allegedly drawn up immediately after the arrest of Vaskevics.
Sources within law enforcement institutions said that they know who ordered the assassination and the offered payment for the hit, however, there is too little legal basis to begin proceedings against these persons.
Law enforcement institutions received information on the planned assassination attempt from “primary sources” within Latvia’s criminal underworld. Strike had not received direct threats herself. The organizer of the assassination attempt is “a person well-known within the criminal underground.”
“I do not believe we will be able to prosecute those thought to be involved, because it is unlikely that the witnesses will be prepared to testify. The most important thing is that we have been able to prevent the assassination attempt,” said a police representative.
Further adding to Vaskevics’ woes, a police search at his office turned up various documents about businessman Vjaceslavs Poctovojs, a former suspect in several criminal cases.
De Facto reported previously that the documents seized from Vaskevics’ office may have contained information on various enterprises and their executives, including printouts from the State Revenue Service and customs’ systems.
Ten years ago, Poctovojs, then director of an oil products trade company, was detained in a criminal case on fraud and sale of contraband fuel. Poctovojs was later released and the charges against him were dropped. In the fall of 2009, the Criminal Police arrested Poctovojs’ 46.6 percent shares in Baltik Oil Group because, once again, Poctovojs was a suspect in a case of fraud and sale of counterfeit goods.
State Police’s Riga Region Administration press secretary, Toms Sadovskis, said that the investigation in this case continues still, and Poctovojs has the status of a suspect in accordance with two Criminal Law sections, on fraud and (maximum applicable jail sentence - thirteen years) and unauthorized use of trademarks, other distinguishing marks and designs (maximum applicable sentence - four years).
Baltik Oil Group is already insolvent. The company’s administrator, Inese Lamasa, said that she did not know Poctovojs and had only seen him once, when the company’s insolvency was being reviewed by a court.
Prosecutor Arvis Miglans pointed out to members of the press last week that Vaskevics had given bribes to a high-ranking State Revenue Service official on several occasions. The prosecutor was evasive on comments in regard to who received the bribes, however, he pointed out that this person is a high-level Revenue Service official.
Unofficial information indicates that the bribes may have been given to Revenue Service Deputy Director General Talis Kravalis. Investigators have recorded at least one conversation between Vaskevics and Kravalis, not far from the Revenue Service’s building.
Portal Pietiek.lv reports that Kravalis has been granted witness protection.
Vaskevics, detained on Jan. 31 by Corruption Prevention Bureau officers on suspicion of bribing a State Revenue Service official, was on Feb. 2 ordered to be held in custody as a security measure. Vaskevics has also been suspended from his post by Finance Minister Andris Vilks.