Former airBaltic high-flier to face charges

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Bertolt Flick, the former chairman and chief executive officer of national airline airBaltic has been questioned and presented with unspecified charges linked to attempts to "sabotage" the company, newswire LETA said Thursday.

Flick, who was perhaps the highest-profile and most controversial businessman in the country for a decade until he fled the country in 2012, is accused of maliciously cancelling flights to cause maximum embarrassment as he pressured the government for more cash to bail out his ailing airline, LETA said, citing prosecutor's office spokeswoman Aiga Eiduka.

The charges center on events of 12 and 13 September 2011 when the sudden and unexplained cancellation of flights to Tallinn, Brussels, Berlin and Stockholm caused massive inconvenience for hundreds of passengers including President Andris Berzins who found himself stranded in Brussels.

Flick fled to his native Germany in June 2011 before the flight cancellations after police raided his apartment, claiming it was unsafe for him to remain in Latvia.

At the time he owned 47% of airBaltic shares, but the state took control of his stake as part of efforts to rescue the ailing company from collapse as it racked up successive years of huge losses.

Police continue to probe the links between Flick's time in charge of airBaltic and the company's opaque connections to collapsed Lithuanian bank Snoras and its Latvian subsidiary Krajbanka, both owned by Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov, who is himself fighting extradition from the UK to Lithuania on charges of massive fraud.

Flick was also well known for his close ties to businessman-cum-politician and former Transport Minister Ainars Šlesers.

Last year Latvia's anti-graft police, KNAB, said they wanted Flick prosecuted for abuse of office. airBaltic itself is also seeking compensation from its former boss, while his successor as chief executive of the company, fellow German Martin Gauss, has managed to turn the company around and return it to profitability.

Following his departure from airBaltic, Flick headed German airline XL Airways. It went bust in 2012.

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