Financial Services, Labour Unions, Latvia, Transport, USA

International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Wednesday, 23.09.2020, 19:45

Trade unions of Ventspils port employees threaten protests if government does not tackle frozen accounts problem

BC, Riga, 17.01.2020.Print version
Trade unions of employees working in Ventspils-based port companies are calling on the government to tackle the problem of transport companies' frozen bank accounts and have warned of mass protests if the problem is not resolved, the unions' representative Linards Gulbis informed LETA.

The trade union of Ventspils port employees, as well as the trade unions of Baltijas Ekspresis and Kalija Parks companies have sent a letter to President Egils Levits, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (New Unity), Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (New Unity), Transport Minister Talis Linkaits (New Conservative Party) and Sanita Purgaile, chairwoman of the Financial and Capital Market Commission (FCMC).

The authors of the letter note that the after the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions against Ventspils mayor Aivars Lembergs and associated entities - Ventspils Development Agency, Business Development Association and the Latvian Transit Business Association -  the bank accounts of some other enterprises operating in Ventspils port were blocked or closed as well even though they have no links with Lembergs. 

"The blocking or closure of these accounts pose a serious risk to their commercial operations and future existence, as a result of which the city of Ventspils can lose thousands of jobs in the transport and services sectors," the trade unions warned in the letter.

Some of the affected companies are unable to pay out wages to their workers because their bank accounts are frozen.

The trade unions ask the government to get involved in tackling the situation and to instruct the banks how they should deal with the cases where the "sanctioned person, although indicated in the Register of Enterprises as the beneficial owner, has lost any control or influence in accordance with a court ruling". 

"The US imposed its sanctions against Lembergs, but they are hitting nearly 1,500 employees working in Ventspils port and their families. The situation is critical and if the government does not get involved in solving it, the trade unions will organize mass protests," said Gulbis.

As reported, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) on December 9 imposed sanctions on a number of natural and legal persons in Europe, Asia and Latin America, including on Lembergs, based on the so-called Magnitsky Act.

To deal with Lembergs' influence in the Freeport of Ventspils, the government decided to take over the ports of Ventspils and Riga. On December 18, Saeima passed in the final reading a bill to turn over the functions of the Freeport of Ventspils to the newly established state-owned joint stock company Ventas Osta (Venta Port).

On the same day, the Freeport of Ventspils Authority was removed from the list of entities sanctioned by the OFAC

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