RIGA - The U.S. sanctions imposed on Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs (For Latvia and Ventspils) have also affected companies that are supervised by Swiss attorney Rudolf Meroni while the criminal case against Lembergs is reviewed in courts, as Transport Minister Talis Linkaits (New Conservative Party) said in an interview with Janis Domburs on Delfi TV.
Lembergs has controlled many transit and transport companies that are now affected by the U.S. sanctions, Linkaits said but declined to name any particular companies. He explained that, for instance, the Freeport of Ventspils Authority had been removed from the list of entities subject to the U.S. sanctions thanks to prompt action taken by the Latvian government.
Companies seized from Lembergs and supervised by Meroni are in an entirely different situation as they are still impacted by the sanctions, explained Linkaits. The question is how quickly the problem can be solved legally.
These companies continue working, but they have problems with settlements as their bank accounts are blocked, the minister added.
"I don't have precise information on the number of companies affected by these problems, but they are prominent players at the Ventspils Port, and some at the Riga Port," said Linkaits.
It is important for Latvia to understand how long the sanctions will affect these companies' operations and the overall cargo flows to Latvian ports.
The Prosecutor General's Office in 2008 authorized arrest of Lembergs and his son Anrijs' 19.52 percent stake in the joint-stock company Ventbunkers, 20.16 percent stake in Ventspils Commercial Port, and at least 30.08 percent stake in Kalija Parks. Meroni was entrusted with supervision of these shares.
As reported, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) on December 9 imposed sanctions on a number of natural and legal persons in Europe, Asia and Latin America, including on Lembergs, based on the so-called Magnitsky Act.
To deal with Lembergs' influence in the Freeport of Ventspils, the government decided to take over the ports of Ventspils and Riga. On December 18, Saeima passed in the final reading a bill to turn over the functions of the Freeport of Ventspils to the newly established state-owned joint stock company Ventas Osta (Venta Port).
On the same day, the Freeport of Ventspils Authority was removed from the list of entities sanctioned by the OFAC.