US lifts sanctions from Latvia’s port of Ventspils

US lifts sanctions from Latvia’s port of Ventspils
By bne IntelliNews December 20, 2019

The US Treasury Department lifted sanctions from the Ventspils Port Authority on December 18. 

The sanctions were imposed over the port’s ties to Aivars Lembergs, a Latvian businessman Washington accuses of long-time bribery practices. Lembergs remains under the sanctions regime, calling it “fake news” and “Stalinist repression”. 

The removal of the sanctions follows the taking over control of Ventspils port – Latvia’s second biggest – by the Latvian government in reaction to the sanctions on Lembergs, who was on the port’s management board. He stepped down after the sanctions were announced. 

“This delisting of the Ventspils Freeport Authority underscores our commitment to work closely with our partners to combat corruption,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Latvia took control over Ventspils and – preemptively – of Riga port in order to avoid any disruption to their operations that the sanctions could bring, the government said earlier.

The US Department of the Treasury alleged on December 9 that Lembergs "controls entities through political parties and corrupt politicians, and systematically exploits those entities and individuals for his own economic gain.”

“Lembergs has used his influence over leadership of political parties to shape government personnel and place certain government officials in positions, as well as to obstruct other government officials from obtaining leadership positions,” the Treasury said.

“Additionally, Lembergs has leveraged and corrupted law enforcement officials to protect his interests and subvert politicians whom he otherwise was unable to control,” it added.

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