Concerns over choice of partner in Riga 'smart city' project

A company with which the city of Riga has teamed up to deliver a 'smart city' solution for €8.7m may be tied to Māris Martinsons, a businessman with a checkered past, reported LTV's De facto on September 17.

The project would entail developing an app to allow drivers find free parking spots across the Latvian capital.

To make the app, Riga has partnered up with a company called Energoefektīva apgaismojuma asociācija. It has no past public record to speak of, and no website or phone. It recently changed its name to Latvijas Viedo pilsētu asociācija, which is also what the aforementioned project by Riga Transport is called. 

This company is headed by one Linda Zeltiņa, a former employee at Vizulo Group, now lead by her husband. The Vizulo Group company has indirect ties with businessman Māris Martinsons, however a spokesperson told De Facto that Martinsons is neither an employee, nor a shareholder. 

Vizulo's council includes Ieva Šaripo, Martinsons' former colleague and head of an association tied to him. While one Indra Zinkeviča sits on its board. She is the head of Moduls Interjers, a company partially and indirectly owned by Māris Martinsons.

The Moduls Interjers company is regularly awarded Riga municipal contracts, having won tenders worth €3m since 2015. The last contract concerned the delivery of LED lamps to the Rīgas gaisma agency, which told LTV that the lamps were made by Vizulo.

To replace lighting in the city center for the 'smart city' project, Riga is planning to buy about €500,000 worth of LED lamps doubling as traffic sensors.

Neither Riga Transport, nor Rīgas gaisma offered comment about whether companies with indirect ties to Māris Martinsons will participate in the tender. 

More than €5m of the money for the project is expected to come from EU funds. Riga Transport has applied to receive state support as well--should the EU grand the money in spring, the state will chip in an extra €2.5m. 

The Environment Ministry says it has not reviewed Riga Transport's partners for the project.

Two years ago, a report by De Facto revealed that Māris Martinsons had paid a fine of €21,000 over an attempt to defraud EU funds. 

While the Moduls-Riga company, of which Martinsons was a board member, is subject of an ongoing investigation into a value added tax fraud scheme. The Diena daily recently alleged that Martinsons has been named a suspect. 

For what it's worth, his 22-year-old son was 2014's highest earner in Latvia, presumably owing to the wealth of his father.

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