Prison sentence for Latvia's most notorious oligarch

A court in Riga has sentenced Aivars Lembergs, an oligarch and one of the most influential men in Latvia, to five years in prison for bribery and money laundering. Lembergs has been mayor of Ventspils, Latvia's busiest export port, since 1988. The trial lasted more than twelve years. Is the verdict a decisive blow against corruption in the Baltic state?

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Diena (LV) /

Old hat

For Diena, the verdict seems very outdated:

“You don't get the impression that a criminal genius who buys or sells political decisions in Latvia was convicted on Monday. ... For at least ten years other names have been circulating in Latvia when it comes to modern corruption and the tracking of financial flows. ... Looking ahead, we should be more concerned about the outcome of criminal proceedings in which the name of Ilmārs Rimšēvičs, former governor of the Bank of Latvia, comes up. Because his criminal machinations are anything but 'old hat'.”

Neatkarīgā (LV) /

This is not about law and justice

The daily Neatkarīgā, which was owned by Lembergs from 1999 to 2016, sees the trial as politically motivated:

“One can ignore the whole context and pretend that there is no political component in Lembergs' case. But this raises the question of whether Lembergs is really the only one who should be held accountable for what happened during the privatisations of the 1990s. Does this mean that the rest of the privatisation process was clean, fair and legally sound? If we cannot answer this question with a clear and convincing 'yes', then we have to admit that it is not Lembergs the lawbreaker but Lembergs the politician who was put on trial.”