Chapter Five: Lietuvēns
I can’t help myself. As a demon, I just love it when the plotting and scheming starts. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine to watch and listen as somebody devises a deliciously naughty escapade against another individual. Honestly, I don’t even care if its right or wrong.
If dirty tricks could be a meal, Rīga would be a world class restaurant. Today’s Special was being served up in a quiet corner, downstairs at the Armoury Bar in Rīga on Vecpilsētas iela. That is not to say that the management there could take credit for it. They only knew that some regular customers were having a little social soirée. That was nothing to be concerned about at all. Somebody else would be taking credit for Today’s Special.
The entrancingly beautiful Sanita, in her capacity as chairwoman, had just called a meeting of the Jelgava Circle to order. She began to read from her notes:
“Nanyang-Pandan Private Developments Limited is a Singaporean company that acts as a holding company for Atlantium Marine Resorts IBC, registered in Belize. It also owns Neptune Pluto Limited, which is the Gibraltar-based representative that acts on behalf of Atlantium Marine Resorts in Europe.
Atlantium Marine Resorts has over 130 billion dollars invested around the world, most of which has been poured into highly speculative projects that involve developing hotels, resorts, and living spaces that incorporate cutting edge architecture and tomorrow’s technology. The directors and registered shareholders in Singapore are nominees, acting on behalf of a wealthy Taiwanese investor who doesn’t appreciate anybody sticking their nose too deeply into his private affairs.
Atlantium Marine Resorts has proposed to build a large coastal holiday and luxury serviced apartment facility in Latvia at a place called Staldzenes pludmale, about ten kilometres north of Ventspils. The resort will cover an area of approximately 400 hectares between the beach and a lake called Būšnieku ezers.
The “Atlantium Kurzeme Resort”, as it will be called, will be one of the most mind-blowing real estate projects in all of Europe and it will be unlike anything ever seen in Latvian history.
At this point in time, the investment is expected to run to around 9 billion euros.
It will feature subaquatic hotel rooms in the Baltic Sea with windows that afford guests a view out into their own private underwater rock garden with artificial coral reefs and hand-carved statues that can be illuminated by mood lighting of the guest’s choice. There will also be above ground rooms, included in a tower that will be taller than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
The underwater part of the complex will be linked by reinforced glass tunnels traversing the depths of the Baltic Sea, each tunnel being completely transparent.
There will be twenty-five bars servicing the complex, each stocking the most popular alcoholic drinks from every country in the world that exports alcoholic beverages. Three of the bars will be located on an artificial floating island off the coastline. Four others will be part of a revolving restaurant suite at the summit of the tower that will also comprise seven different restaurants.
Every tree on the site will be decorated by multi-coloured fairy lighting at night, and some will include creative laser effects. The grounds will feature ornate fountains bathed in colourful lighting. There will be swimming pool facilities, including three which can be privately booked where nudity is acceptable. The entertainment facilities will include twelve IMAX cinemas that play movies from around the world, a large theatre complex, a stadium for hosting visiting musical artists, and a whole host of recreational activities available to cater to every sporting enthusiast and hobbyist imaginable.
There will also be a Floral Castle, that will be the world’s largest temperature and humidity-controlled multi-storey terrarium. It will house an elaborate flower garden with tropical flora from South America and the Pacific.
Don’t forget, of course, there will be eight helipads catering to private and chartered flights as well as the resort’s own squadron of transit helicopters, which can be shunted on and off the pads via a system of rails.
It is anticipated that the complex could employ up to 1900 full-time staff members and another 2100 temporary and casual employees.
There’s only a few “catches” that come with this resort. First of all, they’re going to have to get everybody who lives in the area moved out so they can demolish their houses to make way for the project. It’s anticipated the company will just buy everybody out, but if any stalwarts stubbornly refuse to move, the company might have to find a way to twist their arms a little.
Secondly, approximately 1.5 square kilometres of forest will have to be razed to the ground. This, of course, will wipe out a number of local species of native birds and disrupt the lives of various animals that are native to the area.
Thirdly, Atlantium Marine Resorts expects that their largest clientele will come from places like China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, and the expatriot Chinese community in Australia. That’s where their marketing will be focused. This means they want to avoid employing Latvian people as much as possible. It is hoped that most of the employees will be native speakers of Mandarin, Cantonese, and Hokkien, with English being the other language of service. That means they will need to get an agreement from the Latvian Government to issue the appropriate visas to the thousands of Asian staff that will be recruited to service the resort, as required. Latvian citizens will only be employed at the resort if the resort has no other options, and, even then, they will only be given the lowest paid temporary part-time positions.
Fourthly, the company will request that the government halt the fishing industry within a seven kilometre radius of Staldzenes pludmale.
Finally, for this to be a viable project, the company will also be seeking a special taxation deal from the Latvian Government that eases their tax burden for the first twelve years of operation. They’re hoping to pay no tax for the first five years, and then pay a nominal 5% for the next seven years. If they can’t get a tax deal, this project won’t go ahead.
So, to get the Latvian Government to play ball, so to speak, is probably going to require a few payments under the table to relevant officials and the politicians who head their departments. This won’t be a simple matter of handing over a few generous wads of cash inside brown paper bags. The bribery that will be required is going to be very sophisticated and complex. It stands to turn some cooperative parties into multi-millionaires.
Of course, this will have to be organised by their European representative, Neptune Pluto Limited. Now, Neptune Pluto Limited doesn’t have any contacts within the Latvian Government. They’re going need a Latvian insider to act as the “bribery broker”. That insider will have to be a rich, powerful Latvian who is exceedingly well-connected to the Mr Bigs of the Latvian Government. Naturally, that insider will need to feel they are going to get a very big slice of the action for their efforts.
That’s where Aivars Lipšitzs comes in. The Atlantium Kurzeme Resort will be within the municipal boundaries of Ventspils Novads, and that, my friends, is the Lipšitzs playground.
If he knows that a 9 billion euro resort complex could be springing up a mere 15 minute Lamborghini ride from where he lives, and that he stands to be gifted a satisfying shareholding in the franchise for getting the government to comply, he might be lured by his greatest weakness: an unquenchable lust for wealth acquired by lies, distortions and manipulation. It’s what he does.
Of course, we all know that Atlantium Marine Resorts IBC, Neptune Pluto Limited, and Nanyang-Pandan Private Developments Limited are as corrupt as the Government of Nicaragua. Lipšitzs would realise that, too. But that’s the way he’d like it. He would be very wary of dealing with a bunch of straight arrows. The last thing he’d want is a band of boy scouts arriving on his doorstep seeking a business deal with him. He’d need to know that the people he’s dealing with are, like him, as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.
That’s what Nanyang-Pandan Private Developments Limited is. They don’t have a decent bone in their entire C-Suite, and neither do any of the subsidiaries.”
Valdis, who had just sunk his fifth Scotch & Dry asked, “How do you know so much about this Singaporean group and their shady spin-offs?”
Sanita just about dropped her clipboard on the floor.
“Oh God, give me strength… Valdis, those companies are a front for us – The Jelgava Circle. This is how we’re going to pull off a sting on Lipšitzs. We’re going to register these companies as shell companies, and use the corporate privacy afforded to Belizean registered firms to lie about the assets held by Atlantium Marine Resorts IBC. Neptune Pluto Limited in Gibraltar will advertise for Expressions of Interest from construction companies in Latvia and elsewhere to build the resort, and letters will be sent to all the residents in the Staldzene area offering to purchase their homes. We will make sure the word spreads as quickly as possible that something big is in the pipeline. We’re going to have a very impressive website built that enunciates all the details of the project. Once the word is out that a foreign company has around nine billion euros to throw around in Latvia, I don’t think it would be too difficult to score a meeting with Mr Aivars Lipšitz in his Ventspils office. We will need to devise a way to record every meeting we have with him without getting caught. I’m talking both audio and visual, the capability to reliably obtain high definition photos of any documents that arise in meetings, the ability to record all our conversations with him, and tune into any conversations he has once we’ve left his office. Any ideas?”
Meanwhile, in Skrunda…
An elderly retired locksmith, who had seen something very strange occurring one night on a piece of farmland not far from where he was living, turned on his television to catch the evening news. There was a breaking story coming out of the city of Ventspils. Unknown gunmen had committed a shocking sniper attack on the home of a Ventspils businessman. CCTV videos showed onsite security personnel diving for cover as twenty to thirty rounds of 12.7 millimetre ammunition shattered windows, tiles, bricks, and ripped through vehicles parked at the lavish mansion. Eyewitnesses reported hearing screams coming from inside the villa and several witnesses said they believed the shots were coming from many different directions. Within 30 minutes, the whole area was swarming with police wearing ballistic vests and Kevlar helmets. A spokesman for the police stated that nobody had been injured or killed but the damage done to the villa was said to be extensive. The police said that they had no suspects at this point in time but they did not rule out the possibility that this was the work of a group connected to organised crime.
Speculation was rife that Aivars Lipšitzs had become the target of rival business interests, with some suggesting that a rift had developed between Lipšitzs and the Jūrmala-based magnate, Valērijs Kapustins.
With hands shaking and sweat trickling from his forehead, Lipšitzs, who was hiding behind a hedge three blocks away from his villa, was on the phone to the local chief of police: “Find out who the hell was behind this or, I swear, I’ll have you bastards finished off!”
Meanwhile, somewhere not too far from Ventspils, a group of nine men wearing Danish M84 battle fatigues were running through a thick forest towards a covert location where their low-lying tents were covered with camouflage nets and foliage.
As the news of the armed attack on Aivars Lipšitz began to dominate every media service in Latvia, the old locksmith in Skrunda sat on his divan with a small glass of Russian Standard vodka and toasted the TV screen. A smirk developed on his face as he said under his breath, “Good on you, young man. Your father would have been proud of you. Bravo!”
(to be continued Sunday 29th July, 2018)