Former head of Rīgas satiksme detained as graft probe gathers momentum

In another high-profile arrest, the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has detained Leons Bemhens the former head of Rīgas satiksme municipal company, reports LTV December 14.

Anrijs Matīss (Harmony), the temporary head of the company, told Latvian Radio that he had met Bemhens in the morning; this means he was detained in the afternoon.

This brings the number of people detained in the KNAB probe to seven. A court is now ruling whether to keep Bemhens behind bars during the investigation. 

Rīga mayor Nils Ušakovs (Harmony) did not offer comment about Bemhen's detention as he has just learned about the fact, his porte-parole Laila Ivāna told Latvian Radio.

On December 13 the entire board of Rīgas satiksme stepped down, including Bemhens, who had been suspended as the head of the company but not as a board member. 

Commenting the event, Ušakovs said earlier: "I have no reproaches against any of them. They worked to their best abilities. I hope that investigative operations will testify that no board members are involved in the violations that have possibly taken place within the company."

Late on December 14, Ušakovs initiated a no-confidence vote against himself in the Rīga City Council, in an apparent bid to forestall a vote initiated by the opposition deputees who have started collecting signatures to the same effect.

In November KNAB started a criminal case about the tenders of the Rīgas satiksme municipal transport provider. On December 11 it carried out more than 30 searches; six people were detained in Latvia and two in Poland. The searches were carried out both in the premises of Rīgas satiksme and the Rīga City Council.

Five of the six people detained were arrested per a court ruling, including high-profile businessman Māris Martinsons, as well as Vladislav Kozák, Sales Area Director at the Czech company Škoda Transportation. 

The investigation is related to Czech and Polish companies bribing Rīga's officials, as well as to laundering illicit proceeds. The case involves three tenders issued from 2013 to 2016 and worth hundreds of millions of euros

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