Possible corruption in Ventspils music school contracts

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Due to suspicions of corruption, there is a risk Latvia will have to repay 10.95 million euros allocated from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to the project for construction of Ventspils Music School, according to comments from the Central Finance and Contracting Agency’s (CFLA) official Daiga Reihmane, reported by the LETA newswire.

She confirmed that upon receiving information about possible corruption in relation to the Ventspils Music School project, payments have been suspended.

“As EU funds are used in construction of the school, CFLA turned to the Internal Security Bureau, asking to provide information whether the corruption case is related with the construction process. As soon as the response is received, CFLA will decide on financial corrections in the project. It is not excluded that the EU funding will have to be repaid,” said Reihmane.

She said that so far EUR 7.9 million have been paid to the project. The total sum of the project is EUR 10,949,856, including EUR 9,307,378 from the ERDF, and EUR 1,642,478 from the state budget.

The Internal Security Bureau has detained four officials of the Kurzeme regional brigade of the State Fire and Rescue Service, including both vice commanders, on suspicions of accepting bribes in the process of assessing the fire safety of the newly built Ventspils Music School.

The Kurzeme regional brigade of the State Fire and Rescue Service is headquartered in Liepaja. The Internal Security Bureau has detained the brigade's vice commanders Romans Andrijausks and Mursals Kerimovs, according to information obtained by LETA.

Meanwhile, a representative of Merks-Ostas Celtnieks general partnership, as well as the owner and an employee of VPM Latvija have been detained for bribing the State Fire and Rescue Service's officials in order to secure a favorable assessment of the new building's compliance with fire safety requirements. VPM Latvija was the company in charge of supervising the construction project's fire safety solutions.

Construction of the new building of the music school and concert hall in the center of the northwestern Latvian port city of Ventspils began in February 2017. The floor space of the new building housing both the music school and concert hall is 6,883 square meters.

Merks-Ostas Celtnieks won the tender to build the music school and concert hall for EUR 25,630,451 (exclusive of VAT). Merks-Ostas Celtnieks is a general partnership uniting Merks and Ostas Celtnieks construction firms. Merks belongs to Estonia's Oshausing Merko Investments and businessman Konstantins Bursakovskis is the key owner of Ostas Celtnieks, according to information available at Firmas.lv.

VPM Latvia belongs to Latvian businessman Vilnis Pulkis.

As LSM recently reported, the concert hall is due to open this summer.

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