Latvia-linked offshores emerge in Panama leak

The so-called "Panama papers" - leaked documents from Panamanian offshoring specialists Mossack Fonseca - have turned out to include companies linked to well-known names in Latvia, like that of Ventspils mayor Aivars Lembergs and airBaltic investor Ralf Dieter Montag-Girmes, reported the Re:Baltica Center for Investigative Journalism Thursday.

There are a total of 15,951 entries related to Latvia in the Panama papers, and many are connected to Mossack Fonseca (MF) clients using accounts in Latvia's boutique banks and also surprisingly the local branch of Scandinavian Nordea.

Part of the Latvia-related true beneficiaries and shareholders in the papers are in fact connected to Russian and CIS citizens, while another part are unknown to the public at large so their names don't need publishing as using offshore companies is not in itself illegal, reports Re:Baltica.

The Panama papers list that MF had 10 clients, 1,380 companies, 21 true beneficiaries and 81 shareholders from Latvia.

The center drew attention to the possible offshore dealings of Ventspils mayor Aivars Lembergs and his daughter.

The names of several companies had been previously made known from court documents in cases where prosecutors are trying to prove Lembergs' status as the true beneficiary at several companies in Ventspils. 

The documents show that Lembergs' daughter Līga is the director of a company called Canrif Limited, however there's no info on its operations.

Lembergs' lawyer Irina Kauke denied comment and objected against the information release by Re:Baltica.

Lembergs himself took to social media to insist his name does not appear anywhere in the leaked information.

Recent airBaltic investor Ralf Dieter Montag-Girmes has also used a number of offshore companies - ARQ Aviation Limited, ARQ Investment Limited and ARQ Real Estate Holdings Limited. The companies were set up in 2008 and according to the correspondence MF tried obtaining due diligence from the client without any luck.

In 2013 Montag-Girmes began inquiries about closing the companies. Leaked correspondence reveals Montag-Girmes's ties to Russian business and real estate. 

Other prominent Latvian names in the documents include businessman Ainārs Gulbis and his son, tennis player Ernests Gulbis.

Businessman Gunārs Ķirsons, the founder of Lido eatery chain, was also found in the papers to have offshore dealings. He had tried to retain control over the eatery chain in 2010 by signing an agreement with three companies – Panama-registered Carcel Holdings, as well as Joyton International and Joondaloop Financial Corp registered in the Virgin Islands.

The full Re:Baltica report is available in Latvian HERE

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