One person pleads guilty in municipal housing management case

One person has admitted to being guilty in a case in which about €150,000 was defrauded from the Riga housing management company Rīgas Namu Pārvaldnieks (RNP) through fake job contracts, reported LTV's De facto

A review by the State Audit Office about two years ago found that from March 2014 to April 2015 twelve people might have been employed fictitiously at the municipal housing manager. They are alleged to have been paid without doing any job.

In last December, an individual named Olga Mūrniece, who is the sister of former RNP head Aleksandrs Antonovs, admitted to being guilty of fraud and paid a €7,000 fine and returned €7,400 she had obtained through fraud.

While Mūrniece is no longer working at the company, another employee, Evija Melbārde still takes a post there even though she is to face trial in May. Investigation about the remaining ten people is still ongoing . 

Following Antonovs, Ivo Lecis became the head of RNP. He is still a board member. When the allegations first surfaced, he was adamant in saying that the State Audit Office findings were false. 

"The only thing to add to this story is that the employee who worked at RNP for four months has pleaded guilty. It is unacceptable from the standpoint of any company. That's why we have to thank...the authorities for identifying this case," he now told De Facto

Meanwhile Riga mayor Nils Ušakovs (Harmony) thinks that there is no problem with Lecis still taking up a post in the company.

"I still think that what we are seeing is a case to which there is more politics than actual weight," he said.

Ušakovs is confident that the investigation on the other ten RNP employees in the case will end in naught.

State Audit Office head Elita Krūmiņa, on the other hand, suggests that the municipality is unwilling to accept that there's been wrongdoing under their watch.

"I guess they are very unwilling to admit that there's something wrong in the institution or municipality they are running," she ventured to say.

The audit office found that a great chunk of the wages paid to the people who were allegedly employed fictitiously had been earmarked as expenses for managing residential properties, meaning that regular residents may have shouldered the losses.

LTV's De Facto reported in August 2015 that the department where the employees were working was shut down shortly after the State Audit Office started looking into the goings-on at RNP.

De Facto found that several of the employees at the department were linked to Harmony council members as well as MPs. For example, Riga councilwoman Svetlana Savicka had received €17,994 from RNP in 2014. 

Furthermore, the wives of two Harmony members were found to be working at the shut-down department. 

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