December 10, 2019 / 10:46 AM / 2 months ago

Latvian oligarch hits back at corruption charges

RIGA, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Latvian politician and oligarch Aivars Lembergs, who was put on a U.S. corruption sanctions list on Monday, hit back on Tuesday, saying allegations against him were “fake news” and instigated by his political opponents.

Lembergs, an oligarch with substantial political influence in Latvia, was hit with a sanction by the U.S. Treasury that means U.S. citizens are prohibited from doing business with him and four companies he owns or controls which are connected to the running of the Ventspils port.

“Americans are being used in internal political infighting,” Lembergs told a news conference in Ventspils. “I don’t have a chance to defend myself just like during Stalin’s regime in the Soviet Union.”

Lembergs has been mayor of Ventspils, the second largest port city in Latvia with an important role in the country’s transit industry, for more than 30 years.

Before Latvia’s independence from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s Lembergs held various positions in the Communist Party. He has been a candidate for prime minister for former ruling coalition party The Union of Greens and Farmers, now an opposition party, and has business ties with Russia.

Lembergs was already suspended as mayor by Latvian prosecutors and courts due to an ongoing investigation and charges of corruption and money laundering. Lembergs has denied any wrongdoing in that case. (Reporting by Gederts Gelzis, writing by Johan Ahlander, editing by Ed Osmond)

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