Mayor suspends head of Rīga's municipal transport company

Rīga mayor Nils Ušakovs (Harmony) has suspended Leonīds Bemhens, the head of Rīga's satiksme municipal transport company, from his official post as the company is involved in a large-scale probe by Latvia's corruption watchdog, the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB).

Ušakovs told the press that Bemhens has been suspended for the duration of an international investigation related to the company's tenders but will continue with his duties in the company board. He will not be replaced for the time being.

Ušakovs stressed that he does not know which tender has become the subject of scrutiny, and that Bemhens likewise is surprised about the events. 

He also said that the municipality would turn to the authorities following the Christmas holidays to find out how to improve tender monitoring.

On December 11 and 12 news have broken out over the arrest of eight people in Latvia and Poland.

The Polish authorities have reported an alleged €800,000 bribe that would secure a contract for the delivery of nearly 200 buses and trolleybuses to Rīga for a Polish company. 

Specifically, the Polish Central Anti-Corruption Bureau, in a case which involves six people and according to KNAB is a different case that involves the same people, says that the bribe was handed for a 2013-2016 tender. Rīga's Satiksme has long been buying buses from Solaris Bus & Coach. 

Polish authorities have arrested a member of the management board of the producer of municipal fleet vehicle near Poznań, and in Warsaw one of the company's commercial directors.

According to the Polish authorities, those €800,000 were to be laundered under the guise of payment for fictitious consulting services through a chain of subsidiaries from Latvia, Cyprus, Hong Kong and China before the money went to Rīga.

High-profile businessman Māris Martinsons is among the people arrested by the KNAB, as well as Igors Volkinšteins (the court has remanded the two in custody), the director of the Department for Infrastructure Maintenance and Development at the Rīga City Council. 

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