UPDATED: Former railways boss held in custody

The Riga Regional Court on August 8 ruled to remand Ugis Magonis, the former head of Latvijas Dzelzcels (Latvian Railway), in custody, LSM reported Saturday. On August 10, representatives of the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) announced that criminal proceedings have started against Magonis for accepting a bribe of a large amount.

At the hearing, held behind closed doors, Magonis' lawyer Alvis Marga would not disclose the argumentation behind the court's decision to keep his client in custody but said he would appeal the ruling. This can be done within seven days of August 9 when the court is due to release the full text of its ruling.

The KNAB announced that the evidence suggests the bribe was accepted in connection with a tender by the LDz ritošā sastāva serviss company. 

Officers of the Latvian KNAB on Thursday conducted a search at Magonis' office and detained him.

On Friday, Magonis was dismissed as head of Latvijas Dzelzcels and Avars Straksas, a member of the Latvijas Dzelzcels, was appointed acting head of the company. Latvian Transport Minister Anrijs Matiss said Magonis was detained in connection with a business deal.

Panorama, the evening news program of Latvian public television channel LTV1, reported on Friday that anti-corruption officers had raided not only Magonis' office but also his property in the seaside municipality of Apsuciems. It was also reported that the company's vice-president Edvins Berzins might replace Magonis as the next Latvijas Dzelzcels head.

Magonis had been at Latvijas Dzelzcels since 2003 and was last year paid a salary of 100,000 euros.

Magonis has attracted the anti-corruption bureau’s attention already in the past. In fall 2010, the anti-corruption bureau launched an inquiry into several large transactions Magonis had declared in his 2009 statement to the State Revenue Service.

It was alleged then that the suspicious transactions might have been used to cover up money laundering operations. The money that had to be laundered through these transactions might have been made using office powers in Latvijas Dzelzcels and its freight carrying subsidiary LDz Cargo.

Commenting the inquiry into his deals, Magonis told BNS then that his was nothing extraordinary and that the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau was only doing its job, but he declined to comment the suspicions of money laundering.

Latvijas Dzelzcels is a state-owned company, involved in freight transportation by rail and the maintenance of infrastructure.

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