Anti-graft force targets MEPs Ušakovs and Ameriks

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The Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) is asking for the prosecution of five individuals for causing losses of more than €10 million to Rīga municipality and its capital company, LETA and Latvian Television reported on May 11.

The KNAB, without mentioning specific names, said that it had obtained sufficient evidence that four former officials of the Riga City Council and its capital company, as well as one other individual, generated revenues for a minibus passenger transport company, part of which was to be repaid as a regular bribe in cash for two former senior officials of Rīga City Council. As a result of the offenses, the municipality and its capital company incurred a property loss of more than EUR 10 million.

According to information reported by LTV's De Facto, the accused are Member of the European Parliament and former long-standing Rīga mayor Nils Ušakovs (Harmony); his colleague in Brussels, Andris Ameriks (Honor to Serve Rīga, and former deputy mayor of Rīga under Ušakovs); Aleksandrs Brandavs, a politician linked to the former transport company Rīga Minibus Transport (RMS); and Emīls Jakrins and Leons Bemhens, former representatives of the Rīga public transport company Rīgas Satiksme.

According to Ušakovs, the allegations raised by the KNAB are politically motivated. He is convinced that the charges were based on the position of the existing Rīga City Council management and that the social costs of the municipality should be treated as criminally punishable losses. According to Ušakovs, he has not yet met “greater absurdity”.

Evidence gathered during the preliminary investigation of the KNAB shows that the former Chairman of Rīga City Council Ušakovs and his deputy requested a large amount of bribe from a natural person, the sub-owner of the minibus passenger transport company RMS, using their position as the local government's leading officials.

The investigation has revealed that the former Mayor of Rīga City Council, his deputy, and the sub-owner of the full company agreed on the necessary activities to implement the bribery.

The agreement intended to make changes to the regulatory enactments so that the full company could receive payments from the Rīga City Council through its capital companies for the carriage of passengers with fare discounts, and to pay 30% of these revenues in cash each month as a bribe to the Mayor and his deputy. Such additional income was generated by the full company and its members between May 2018 and April 2020.

In order to achieve amendments to regulatory enactments, two other officials of the self-government capital company prepared and provided the decision-makers with false information regarding the impact of changing the procedures for granting fares on the financial interests of the local government and the capital company thereof. The persons involved in the criminal offense were aware of the illegality of the change of order and the creation of losses to the Riga City Council and its capital company.

The criminal offenses have allegedly had serious consequences: the municipality and its capital company have suffered a property loss of more than EUR 10 million.

The KNAB has concluded the relevant pre-trial investigation by sending criminal case materials to the Corruption Coordination Division of the Criminal Justice Department of the Prosecutor General. At present, the Prosecutor General's Office should decide on the way forward in the criminal case.

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