Chapter Eight: Lietuvēns
I’ve gotta say this: I think I might have misjudged the Prometheans a little. For a while, I thought they’d turned into a bunch of defeatist scaredy-cats. It seemed as if they’d lost their intrepidity. They didn’t want to harm the poor little police officers guarding Aivars Lipšitzs, so they decided to play it safe. They were on a roll, but the moment one little thing went wrong, they threw their arms in the air, dropped their bundles, gave up, and then they took their anti-materiel sniper rifles and went home crying to their mothers. Except for sad little Delta, of course, who doesn’t know where his mother is. I guess he just went home to his tattered little teddy bear and ate microwaved dinners alone under the light of a single 50 Watt bulb. Oh, wait a minute… I keep forgetting… Delta doesn’t have a home. Kapustins took that. I know, I can be so mean at times. It’s a demonic trait.
Well, after their most recent efforts, I think I might have to reconsider my opinion about them.
I’ve got to give them some credit: extorting money from corrupt politicians in Daugavpils so they could buy illegal weapons in Poland and then spray the Lipšitzs mansion with 12.7mm NATO ammunition is one thing. But sending the invoice for “services rendered” to Kapustins afterwards was an absolute all-time classic! You’ve got to have some respect for that. Not to mention the fact that the cheeky lads had the bill sent to him from Russia! I liked that. It was a nice touch. When I saw that, I laughed so much I almost peed myself.
That letter they sent to Lipšitzs telling him they were working for Kapustins was an enjoyable read. In fact, here’s a copy of the letter for your perusal:
Dear Mr Aivars Lipšitzs,
As Commander-in-Chief of a professional security group, I wish to inform you that it was our group who executed the two armed attacks on your premises in Ventspils in recent weeks. We are aware that we caused a significant amount of damage to your house and some vehicles garaged there, and we caused some injuries to some of your security guards. We are also aware that we gave you and your family quite a fright. Even worse, we realise you have now lost your “no claims bonus” on your insurance policy.
Well, we’re sorry.
It was nothing personal. We were hired as professionals by Mr Valērijs Kapustins of an address on Bulduru Prospekts in Jūrmala. I am sure you know him. However, since performing our assigned task as per the contract, Mr Kapustins has declined to pay us what he owes us. We don’t like that.
Following our disappointment with Mr Kapustins, we are offering you the chance to send your regards to him by making use of one of the many services we offer. We’d be open to discussing a large discount. Maybe we could commence negotiations at 50%. Furthermore, we would be open to discussing a lower price if you should choose our exclusive Platinum Apocalypse Deal, which we normally only offer to selected clients.
If you would like to engage our services, please email the word “Апокалипсис” to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
We will be in touch with you shortly afterwards.
It gets even better. You don’t know this bit yet, but after they eventually execute a big armed attack on Kapustins’ villa in Jūrmala, they’re going to try to frame Lipšitzs for the attack and tell Kapustins that Lipšitzs payed them double what Kapustins owes them.
As you already know, they’re planning to bundle up all their letters to the two oligarchs and send them to the media. What you haven’t been told is that the date of each letter will come with proof, because they took photos of themselves wearing their camouflage uniforms and balaclavas, bearing their firearms, and displaying a copy of each letter alongside the front page of the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper. They intend to do the same thing after the attack on Kapustins.
Now, call me a cynic, but I have a funny feeling that Lipšitzs won’t be getting an invitation to this year’s Christmas party at the Kapustins’ villa. In fact, I’ll be very surprised if Lipšitzs is still living in Latvia by the end of this year.
KRODZIŅŠ “RŪDOLFS”, Blaumaņa iela 3, Koknese. 18:45 hours.
“We’ll have three pints of Tērvetes alus. I’m having the Skābēti kāposti, and the other two are having the Sklandrausis and the cheese platter.”
Sanita had decided at the last minute to accompany Metra to meet with Pēteris to discuss the Atlantium Kurzeme Resort website. From where I was watching, I couldn’t help getting the impression that Pēteris was having a little trouble taking his eyes of Sanita. What a dirty little geek!
It wasn’t very busy at Krodziņš “Rūdolfs” on that Wednesday night, but Pēteris was still a little paranoid about anybody in Koknese finding out what he was doing. He insisted that they should discuss all details in English, for fear of being overheard by some of the locals. It was a strange request, because even in a small town like Koknese, the English language was hardly a secret code. At the same time, it wasn’t entirely odd for Pēteris to do that. He was a hardcore computer gamer during his teens and he still liked to get online and play “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive”. Those Latvian computer gaming geeks all babble to each other in English when they’re gaming. Somebody somewhere decided that was the most cool thing to do. Who really understands those geeks anyway? No wonder hardly any of them have girlfriends.
Sanita opened the meeting.
“First of all, thank you for meeting with us tonight, Pēteris.”
“It’s my pleasure.”
“Pēteris, I understand Metra has informed you about everything you need to know. We can get onto the details of your website design a little later. I just need to know why you want to help us when you know we don’t have a lot of money to pay you.”
“I can explain that to you very easily. It all relates to a certain gentleman who lives in a very expensive house in Jūrmala. My older sister used to work for him. Merija was a business graduate from the Stockholm School of Economics in Rīga. She made the big mistake of getting a job with this gentleman who owns the expensive house. At the time, she felt very lucky and she was very excited to start working at one of his banks.”
Sanita interrupted, “Hold on… Who are you talking about?”
“You know very well who I’m talking about, Sanita”
“I thought you were talking about Valērijs Kapustins at first, but he only owned one bank and that bank folded.”
Pēteris started laughing.
“Are we talking about the same Valērijs Kapustins?” asked Pēteris. “Your Valērijs Kapustins only ever owned one bank? My Valērijs Kapustins owns every domestic bank in Latvia. I think we better get this sorted out, in case we’re not talking about the same man.”
“Sorry?” blurted a very confused Sanita.
“Please forgive me, Sanita. I wasn’t trying to be condescending. I know you and I are talking about the same man. But I think you need to know that he has not left the banking industry like you think. Kapustins indirectly controls all the Latvian domestic banks. He even exerts quite a bit of influence over the central bank. The only banks he doesn’t control are the Swedish and Norwegian banks in Latvia. My sister, Merija, worked for him. At first, it was okay. Then he told her that she had to register a number of shell companies in Ukraine in her own name, and list herself as a Director of each one. Then she was told she had to direct her companies to borrow large amounts of money from his shady bank. She had to use that money to buy junk assets from unknown companies in Moldova and Russia. Most of those assets were little more than production line artworks by unknown street artists in Chișinău and Saint Petersburg, but she was told to pay ridiculously large prices for artworks that would barely fetch 5 euros from a passing tourist. Merija didn’t know why she was being ordered to do this, but she suspected from the very beginning that something illegal was going on and she could get into trouble at a later date. Merija met with her supervisor and said she didn’t want to continue directing the shell companies and that was when the bullying started. At first, they just placed hideously large amounts of work on her desk. They knew she could never finish her workload within the scheduled deadlines. Then, when she couldn’t meet the deadlines, she was called into her supervisor’s office and reprimanded for her poor work performance. Merija would come home crying some nights. Then they started “performance managing” her. She was being pulled into that supervisor’s office every week and told that her standard of work is getting worse, and that her coworkers have been complaining about her, and that her desk is always untidy. She was so upset that she didn’t go to work one day. She called her supervisor and said she was feeling sick that day. Can you believe they paid a private detective to place our house under surveillance and when they got video images of her entering and leaving the house in perfectly good health, she was called into her supervisor’s office again. Merija just couldn’t understand why this was happening. It was only when a sympathetic coworker took her aside and told her that she was a member of something nicknamed “The Latvian Proxy Network” that she fully understood what was going on. Kapustins was using a huge network of nominee company owners and directors to loot his own bank. The money was being booked as loans to foreign registered enterprises, but eventually that money weaved its way through a network of shell companies and bank accounts in former Soviet countries and even EU countries before landing in offshore bank accounts owned by Kapustins and several of his cronies. Merija’s friend warned her that it would be best for her just to keep doing what she had been told and keep directing the Ukrainian companies to take out more loans and buy more rubbish from Russian companies. Of course, those Russian companies were also being operated by Kapustins’ proxy network. She eventually did that, but people became suspicious of her. Then, one day, seven of Kapustins’ steroid-munching security baboons surrounded her at her desk and marched her into Kapustins’ office. She was shaking in her shoes. Merija has never told me or anybody else in our family what happened in Kapustins’ office that day. All I can remember were the tears running down her cheeks when she got home that evening, and watching her sobbing uncontrollably as she grabbed her backpack and ran around the house gathering some clothes to put into it, and then took her passport and caught a bus from Rīgas Autoosta to Tallinn, Estonia where she flew from Tallinn via Stockholm to Dublin. She went to Tallinn because she didn’t want to appear on the flight manifest of any airline flying out of Rīga airport. She ended up spending a few weeks sleeping on the floor in a friend’s apartment before she found a job working as a maid in a small hotel in Dublin. That’s how her business career ended. I heard on the grapevine that Merija takes 150mg of Venlafaxine HCl per day for depression, and uses 20mg of Temazepam to sleep at night. Meanwhile, my mother admitted to me that she had been keeping something secret about that day when Merija left. She never told my dad about this because we all knew how he’d react. But one day several years after Merija left, my mother told me that Merija had left behind the underwear she had been wearing at work that day. The crotch of her panties was covered with blood. My mother assures me that it was not Merija’s time of the month. So, my new friend Sanita, it is with the greatest of pleasure that I will create your website for the cost of 0.00 euros. I would also like to donate some money to your special group and assist you in any way I can.”
Sanita sat in shock with one hand across her own mouth as if to stifle a gasp of air.
“Can I ask you something, Sanita?” Pēteris continued. “What made you such an enemy of Kapustins?”
“He killed my best friend. Elena was an angel. I used to work with her at Rimi, but she had another job in the evenings. She used to tell me the things that Kapustins did to her family. He stole their house, he got her mother fired from her job at a hospital, and made implied threats against her two brothers. One of her brothers, who was a journalist, wrote an investigative piece about the corrupt mayor of Elena’s home town, Ziedciems. The article didn’t mention Kapustins directly, but anybody who read it would have known that he was talking about Kapustins, too. Then, not long after the article was published, Elena’s brother was murdered. But forget about that. That all happened long after Elena’s death. Elena was working for a friend of Kapustins. Apparently Kapustins invited her to visit him at his palace in Jūrmala. I don’t know why she agreed to go there. It was such a silly thing to do. But she went. Maybe she thought she could change something. I don’t know. I really don’t understand it. Something went terribly wrong. Elena was arrested by police a few days later. I have no idea what that was about. She was facing prison. Then…”
Pēteris handed Sanita some tissues. “It’s alright Sanita. You don’t have to tell this story if you don’t want to.”
“No. It’s okay. I want to tell the story.”
Sanita wiped her eyes and blew her nose.
“Then I went into the bathroom in the morning. We shared an apartment together. There she was. The bath was full. Elena was lying in there. I will never forget that horrible scarlet colour of the water. Elena, that beautiful young women… her soul had left her body. She left a note explaining everything. Even now, I wish I had never read it. Her other brother, a wonderful young man, fell to pieces in front of me when I handed him the note. He was on the floor, crying and pleading for his baby sister to come back to him. It was just terrible. We never saw her brother again. He fled from Latvia. Nobody knows what happened to him. He was never seen again. Her family was destroyed. My life was never the same again. If we can’t do something about these monsters who control our cowardly politicians, then I don’t have any reason to live. I want to bring every last one of them to the ground. I want all their money taken away from them. I want to see people like Kapustins and Lipšitzs dressed in rags, half-starved, begging on the streets for money while passing tourists kick them out of the way and tell them to get a job.”
THE LIPŠITZS MANSION, Ventspils.
Aivars Lipšitzs grabbed his phone and rang the Finance Minister. Dita Kaķīte-Bezbikse answered immediately.
“Dita, have you seen the newspaper this morning? Some Belize-based company called Atlantium Marine Resorts IBC has announced it wants to buy up 400 hectares of land near Staldzenes pludmale to build a nine billion euro resort. Hold on… here it is… The Atlantium Kurzeme Resort. Nine billion euros! Has anybody been in touch with your department about that?”
“Where’s Staldzenes pludmale?” asked Dita.
“Oh, who cares!” retorted Lipšitzs. “It’s north of here. It’s up my butt hole. What does that matter? Come on, Dita! There’s no way you’re going to tell me that somebody has nine billion euros to play with and they haven’t been in contact with your people.”
“Sorry, Mr Lembergs. Nobody has said a thing to us.”
“Well have a look at the newspapers! They’ve made offers to every landowner in the area. They’re offering astronomical prices to get everybody to move out of the Staldzene area. They’ve put tenders out for Latvian construction companies to start building it. They’re going to put up a tower that’s taller than that thing in Dubai. Why hasn’t my construction company been contacted about this?”
“Mr Lembergs, that’s you son-in-law’s construction company.”
“Oh shut up, Dita! You know what I mean. A project like that should go to my… my son-in-law’s construction company if it’s going to be built in Ventspils Novads.”
“Aivars, please take a deep breath. I’m going to get some of my people onto this right away.”
“Dita, find out who these people are and make them call me!”
“Aivars, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“What?” asked Lipšitzs.
“Have you considered they might already be in talks with you-know-who in Jūrmala and that might be the reason your house was attacked by those Russian gunmen?”
Lipšitzs went silent as if the sun had been extinguished and the sky had no stars.
“My god! That dirty prick on Bulduru prospekts is trying to rub me out of any deals with this Belize company, isn’t he?”
(to be continued Sunday 2nd September, 2018)