The claim is not new, as previously reported by LSM, but now De Facto has reported additional details about the payments and their recipients. In coming days, the Rīgas satiksme (RS) transport company will file a lawsuit against its former chairman Leons Bemhens and three other former members of the board who signed off the contracts with 16 consultants. RS will be looking to recover around 1.5 million euros from its former bosses, though at this stage action is not being taken directly against the "fictitious consultants" De Facto reported.
De Facto revealed that among the most generously rewarded from this list are former journalist Konstantīns Gaņins, former Riga City Council deputies Nikolajs Zaharovs (Harmony party) and Andris Berzins (Honor to serve Riga party, GKR), as well as the chairman of the Rīga election commission Juris Kokins (GKR).
Jānis Kārkliņš a lawyer representing RS told De Facto: "Those members of the board who have commissioned or accepted the work will then have to justify in court why such work was necessary. Because in our opinion, these consulting agreements are fictitious and unnecessary for Rīgas satiksme. And that is the position that will also be taken in court.'
Some of the contracted consultants raked in hundreds of thousands of euros. From March 2010 to January 2019 - journalist Konstantīns Gaņins working under the pseudonym 'Kazakovs' received money from Rīgas satiksme, while also while working for publicly-funded Russian language radio channel Latvijas Radio 4. During that time he received almost 300 thousand euros.
"Of course," Gaņins replied to De Facto's question as to whether his consultation work was real and paid for at a fair price.
From April 2010 to January 2019 election commission chairman Kokins earned almost 200 thousand euros for parking performance monitoring contracts. He too said his work was performed correctly, as parking charges were subsequently altered based upon his figures. He characterised RS's looming court case as "political games".
Also on the list of consultants who received the most money are two former members of the board of Rīgas satiksme, who started providing advice in 2013. Those are the now-deceased Nikolajs Zaharovs ("Harmony") with 230 thousand euros and Andris Bērziņš (GKR), who received almost 200 thousand euros in total.
"I believe that this remuneration, which was for the members of the Board, was and is - I believe that it is fair,” said Bērziņš, pointing out that public transport has a vital economic and social role to play, as well as a duty of care for its passengers' safety.
Several of the list of 16 consultants participated in the Riga City Council's extraordinary elections, but the only one elected to the new council is Sandris Bergmanis of the Harmony party. He agreed to a face-to-face interview with De Facto, but changed his mind at the last minute because he was not yet a public official and did not want to get involved in a civil dispute.
In a telephone conversation, Bergmanis commented on the agreements with Rīgas satiksme as follows: "I had certain tasks that I performed, handed over, received in return, so to speak ... What are the claims against me? How do they move on - did they need it or not ... How can I say that? (..) But I'm not going to say, let's say, to my employer, "Do you need me?" Well, of course not.”
The exact amount that Rīgas satiksme wants to recover from its former board members is still being calculated, as what the company has paid in taxes for the consultancy contracts will also be added. The possibility of later applying to the consultants themselves is not excluded, if the court finds that the contracts were fictitious.