Fresh revelations from 'oligarch transcripts'

Take note – story published 6 years and 10 months ago

The news weeky magazine Ir in June 22 published fresh revelations of collusion among Latvia's cadre of so-called 'oligarchs' to manipulate the political and economic systems of the country for their own gain.

A second batch of transcripts of covertly-recorded meetings, chiefly featuring Ventspils mayor and Greens and Farmers Union (ZZS) kingmaker Aivars Lembergs on the one hand, and former Transport Minister and businessman Ainars Slesers on the other, describe a series of breathtakingly cynical attempts to control the country.

Also featuring in the second batch of transcripts is disgraced former Parex Bank owner Valerijs Kargins and current Agriculture Minister Janis Duklavs.

The latter is discussed at length as a possible candidate for president and also makes an unwittingly clownish appearance in the transcripts in person, apparently relishing the prospect of unseating then-prosecutor general Janis Maizitis in 2010. 

Yet perhaps the most damaging transcript is a three-way conversation from October 2010 between Lembergs, Slesers and Janis Urbanovics, a leader of the opposition Harmony political party in which they discuss at length the opportunities of ousting Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis and forming their own coalition - a prospect that was never discussed in public with voters.

They also discuss who to parachute into the positions of prime minister and president, debating at length the relative English language skills of various candidates.

At one point, Lembergs answers his own speculation about whether he should be prime minister himself saying:

"Me? Am I an idiot?"

Yet beyond the various political plans put forward, it is the tone of the conversations that is most striking, with all participants apparently viewing it as their inalienable right to sow mayhem and insert placemen in key positions at their personal whim.

The frequent recourse to colorful and obscene language is also revealing and at odds with the wholesome, patriotic images cultivated by most of the participants.

The sources of the transcripts have not been revealed, though their existence has been suspected for years. Ir, which has a good reputation for journalistic integrity, has staked its reputation on their authenticity.

The transcripts and audio re-recordings (not the originals) are available at the Ir magazine's website, but only in Latvian.


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