A Goblet of Venom for Oligarchs (Part III)

Chapter Eight:  Lietuvēns

“I am Peter Furneaux, foreign correspondent in Jūrmala, Latvia reporting for Reuters World News”

“Standing here outside Villa Robatori on Bulduru prospekts in the beautiful Baltic seaside resort of Jūrmala, I am as close as police have allowed our camera crew to get to the site of a heavy armed attack that has occurred on the home of Latvian business magnate, Valērijs Kapustins, whose palatial villa is only a matter of a few minutes walk down the street from here.”

“Earlier, local residents reported a heavy volume of machine gun fire that shattered the tranquility of this exclusive neighbourhood at around 01:37 AM this morning, with some reports suggesting this may have been an amphibious attack conducted by a team of unknown gunmen from the beach just north of here.  There is also a conflicting report that a machine gun might have been firing from the top of a tower in a park in the nearby suburb of Dzintari.  A short while ago we spoke to a former member of the British armed forces who is holidaying in Jūrmala who claimed to see what he called a “Sustained Fire Machine Gun” team firing thousands of rounds of ammunition at an unknown target.”

“In scenes reminiscent of recent attacks on the home and office of Ventspils businessman, Aivars Lipšitzs, the damage to the Kapustins residence is extensive.  We have been getting preliminary reports that there might have been an explosion that took place, with one resident reporting that either a mortar or a rocket-propelled grenade had been used, causing major destruction to the eastern wing of the plush estate owned by Valērijs Kapustins.  One local said he found pieces of what seemed to be a fractured alabaster gibbon located around 90 metres from the site of the alleged blast.”

“So far, police are reluctant to draw any links between this attack and the attacks in Ventspils, although one senior officer stated that all lines of enquiry are being followed.”

“It is unknown at this point in time if there have been any casualties as a result of this drama.  We will be updating reports as more information comes to light.”

“I am Peter Furneaux for Reuters World News, in Jūrmala, Latvia.”

*

Stop right there!  I’m sorry everybody.  I am getting a little bit ahead of things right now.  Need I remind you that we demons can jump back and forward through time?  I just couldn’t wait to get to one of the good bits in the story!  We need to take a step back, though.  Let’s go back a couple of days.  With the Latvian business media abuzz with rumours of a large consortium planning to build a nine billion euro resort for Chinese tourists north of Ventspils, it wasn’t hard for representatives of the consortium’s Gibraltar subsidiary, Neptune Pluto Limited, to schedule a meeting in an office somewhere on Jēkaba iela with a certain billionaire called Valērijs Kapustins.  What Neptune Pluto Limited was offering him for his cooperation could potentially dwarf his current assets.  Naturally, Kapustins was very interested to hear what they had to say.

Sanita, Valdis, and Tomas entered Kapustins’ office on Jēkaba iela in Vecrīga, flanked by armed guards wearing body armour.  When Kapustins laid eyes on Sanita, his krāniņš just about ripped his pants zipper open.  She had that effect on men.

“A pleasure to meet you, Mr Kapustins, I’m Sanita and this is Valdis, our Chief Legal Officer, and the other dashing looking gentleman here is Tomas, our Chief Financial Officer.  You have a very beautiful office here!”

“Gentlemen, how are you?  Sanita, it is indeed a pleasure to meet you!”

Kapustins took Sanita’s hand and kissed it as she restrained the urge to regurgitate her lunch.  Kapustins invited everybody to take a seat.

“Can I interest you in a glass of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grand Cru?  It’s a lovely pinot noir from Côte de Nuits in the heart of the Burgundy wine region of France.  I import it for around 14000 euros per bottle.”

Tomas replied “If it’s okay by you, Mr Kapustins, I’d be just as happy with some of that berry wine they make at Krimuldas muiža near Turaida.”

Sanita gently kicked Tomas under the table.

“Ah, Mr Kapustins, Tomas is just joking.  We are very grateful for your kind hospitality.  It sounds wonderful!”

Kapustins, in one of his rare moments of servitude, poured four glasses of the Grand Cru and proceeded to talk business.

“I understand your company represents a Belize firm that’s planning to build a large resort north of Ventspils.  The media is reporting a figure of nine billion euros for the investment.  How can I help you?”

Sanita smiled at Kapustins seductively, “Mr Kapustins, you could help me in so many ways.”

Kapustins had to rearrange himself discretely under the table.

“Mr Kapustins,” Sanita continued, “Our company, Neptune Pluto Limited, represents Atlantium Marine Resorts IBC in the European Union.  AMR wants to buy up land within a 400 hectare area adjacent to a beach called Staldzenes pludmale about ten kilometres north of Ventspils.  The Atlantium Kurzeme Resort, which AMR proposes to build on that site, is everything you’ve heard about in the media, and more.  However, there could be some challenges that we need to overcome that would require somebody in Latvia who could assist us with various legalities.  For example, the investor doesn’t want to employ Latvian citizens at the resort except where absolutely unavoidable.  The resort is being built for the Chinese tourism market and the investor believes that patrons at the resort wouldn’t want to tolerate dealing with Latvian staff.  We envisage that most of the staff positions will go to native speakers of Mandarin, Cantonese, and Hokkien.  The resort is expected to employ thousands of foreigners so we’d need an absolute guarantee that the Latvian Government will grant all visas and work permits as required.  Of course, I’m sure you would understand, this stands to be a very unpopular facet of the investment among ordinary Latvians.  It would certainly need a guarantee from the appropriate Minister that nothing will obstruct any visa applications that we make for staff from China, Hong Kong SAR, Singapore, Taiwan Province, Macao, Malaysia, and Australia.  I’m sure you understand.  We are hoping to establish the goodwill of a well-established businessman in Latvia who could assist us with navigating the various requirements to keep the political masters happy.  In order to secure the cooperation of the relevant Minister, we’d be happy to provide our cooperation, too.  We’d be happy to discuss the value of that cooperation, which could represent our goodwill to the relevant Latvian government ministry.”

“Of course, I understand” said Kapustins.

“Furthermore, Mr Kapustins, we are going to require permission to raze a couple hundred hectares of forest and we need to get the fishing industry halted within a certain radius of the resort.  That, too, is something for which we’d be prepared to show our cooperation with the relevant Minister.  Once again, we can discuss the monetary value of that cooperation.  There other areas of cooperation that we are more than happy to discuss.  We could talk about opening discussions with each Minister at, say, fifteen million euros each.  Of course, we’d need to discuss this in a slightly longer conversation.  As for you, Mr Kapustins, we were hoping we could take you on board as a business partner.  Atlantium Marine Resorts IBC has authorised us to make you a special offer.  In return for assisting us with the Latvian Government, we could make a gift to you of a 33% shareholding in the enterprise.”

Kapustins was able to maintain the most stolid poker face, despite having just been told he stands to be given three billion euros just for helping bribe some Latvian government Ministers with 15 million euros each.  Stolid though has face may have been, his krāniņš was straining against his pants with every flicker of Sanita’s eyelashes.

The conversation continued for another ninety minutes and at no time was Kapustins or his security team aware that Valdis was recording their entire conversation.  When all is done and dusted, Valdis should be given an award for his part in the Jelgava Circle.  He had travelled to Kharkiv, Ukraine where a dentist had drilled out one of his old root canal fillings and installed a tiny electronic bug inside his upper left first bicuspid tooth.  It was transmitting a weak digitally encrypted signal to a large antenna array they’d erected inside a nearby hotel room.  They’d sneaked every component of that array into the room, piece by piece, in suitcases the night before.  It now occupied one third of the entire hotel room.

Once they’d got everything that Kapustins said recorded, Valdis would have to return to Kharkiv to get the device removed from his tooth so the dentist could refill the tooth.  Since having the device installed inside his tooth, he had been living on soft food, like cold soups and guacamole dips.  It would have to be that way until they had everything they recorded in Free Lossless Audio Codec format.

Not far away, in the Painter’s House hotel, a team of Jelgava Circle members were just about ready to pop the champagne corks.  Wearing headphones and huddled behind a hotchpotch of digital radio and computer equipment, they were receiving crystal clear audio eavesdrops of the conversation between Kapustins and Sanita.  This is everything they had been working toward.

“Sanita, have you approached any other individuals in Latvia to…. seek help with this project?” asked Kapustins.

Tomas spoke up, “We have been in talks with one other potential business partner in Ventspils, Mr Aivars …”

Sanita interjected, “My apologies, Mr Kapustins.  We haven’t committed to anything firm with anybody as yet.  We assure you that our focus at the moment is upon coming to a suitable arrangement with you, if you should agree to what we are offering.  Of course, I understand you would need to give our proposal some consideration.  Could I please ask for a certain degree of confidentiality at this point in time, Mr Kapustins?”

“Certainly, Miss Sanita.  By the way, please, call me Valera.”

“We will be in touch with you again, Mr Kapustins.  I’m sorry we have to rush.  We have to return to Gibraltar this evening.  Our connecting flight via London leaves Rīga in three hours from now.”

The meeting between Sanita, Valdis, Tomas and Valērijs Kapustins adjourned as a group of five members of the Jelgava Circle in a room at the Painter’s House hotel were just about ecstatic.  They had everything that Kapustins said on audio file, and it was perfect.  Kapustins had named government Ministers, he had made clear statements of his intention to pass fifteen million euro bribes to the Ministers whose cooperation would be needed, and he even made partial admissions to his willingness to apply threats of coercion to any uncooperative individuals who might obstruct the enterprise.  His preparedness to accept a significant shareholding in this nine billion euro investment in return for brokering extreme acts of corruption was now on the record, and his voice was unmistakable.

Sanita, Valdis, and Tomas left Rīga almost immediately, but not to go to Gibraltar.  They checked into the Tukuma Ledus Halle hotel in Tukums that evening before making their way to Ventspils the next day.  Meanwhile, the Painter’s House Digital Antenna Team gradually removed their equipment from the hotel over the next twelve hours.  They also made their way to Ventspils.

Next stop:  Aivars Lipšitzs.  But you already knew that, didn’t you?

*

THE GULF OF RĪGA,  57° 0′ 8″ N, 23° 54′ 29″ E  – Approximately 19:57 hours.

Delta, Beta, and Iota were in an inflatable raft they had boarded after making their way through forested land at Ragakāpa.  They were quietly making their way along the coastline of Jūrmala towards a point in the Baltic Sea slightly north-east of the Kapustins residence.  There, Iota would be remaining in the raft while Delta and Beta would be donning scuba equipment in order to be able to surreptitiously infiltrate the section of beach that spanned the northern fence line of the villa where Kapustins lives.  Delta and Beta were each armed with two Swedish-manufactured 84mm AT4 single-shot anti-tank weapons with night vision sights.  All up, they had four High Explosive Anti-Tank rounds, filled with a total of 1.76 kilograms of Octol, a mixture of trinitrotoluene and cyclotetramethylene-tetranitramine.

What can I say?  Bang!

In the past, Kapustins had allowed Sweden to take the blame for Latvia’s economic woes, even though he had caused most of the problems in Latvia.  Delta always knew that the way to hurt a man like Kapustins was to hurt his assets.  Delta felt that it would be appropriate to hurt Kapustins’ assets with Swedish-manufactured weapons.

Delta is a rather vindictive sort of man, don’t you think?  I like him.

Meanwhile, Epsilon, Theta, and Eta were still getting ready to make their way to Dzintaru Mežaparks, where they were going to make the arduous climb up the 38 metre tall Observation Tower at 56° 58′ 35.4″ N, 23° 49′ 16.96″ E while hauling a 7.62mm Rheinmetall MG3 General Purpose Machine Gun with L2A2 Sight Unit Infantry Trilux sight, as well as a heavy tripod, the machine gun’s cleaning kit, and no less than 51 kilograms of 7.62x51mm NATO M80 link ammunition.  The three men were also going to need to haul ropes up the tower because they would be making their escape by abseiling down from the tower with their weapons and equipment.

On this night, the Unit HQ would be staffed by Alpha, Gamma, and Zeta.  They’d be coordinating the attack via a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) system.  They’d also be providing cover fire, if necessary, to assist the Dzintaru Mežaparks Machine Gun Team if their escape route became compromised.  They were due to occupy a clandestine location in the park, not too far from the tower.

Eta had triangulated the precise location of the Kapustins residence relative to the tower.  Every detail had been calculated so as to target their machine gun to deliver fixed lines of machine gun fire that would be delivered to a large zone over a kilometre away.

Oh, I should mention this:  unlike the attacks in Ventspils, the Prometheans weren’t particularly worried if they killed anybody at the Kapustins residence.  This was war, and collateral damage happens during war.  Live with it.

*

VENTSPILS, The office of Mr Aivars Lipšitzs.  Around the same time that evening (I’m afraid to say).

Aivars Lipšitzs welcomed the representatives from Neptune Pluto Limited with his usual feigned flamboyance and panache.  Sanita prepared to restrain herself from vomiting for the second time in as many days as she greeted Lipšitzs in his marble foyer.  Lipšitzs barely noticed Tomas and Valdis as his gaze was transfixed on Sanita’s dazzling charms.

This was a meeting that proceeded smoothly, although Lipšitzs had a few more conditions than Kapustins did.

“Sanita, I understand you’ll be looking for a competent construction company to oversee construction of this resort at Staldzene.  My son-in-law manages one of the best construction firms in Latvia.  His company has extensive experience in the building industry.  It is the number one choice of the Latvian Government in all construction projects here in Ventspils Novads.”

“Mr Lipšitzs, we will be considering all tenders for the construction phase but if it would help lubricate arrangements, we could talk about that.”

Lipšitzs poured four glasses of Nolet’s Reserve Gin Modern on ice before continuing.

“I can give you my strongest possible assurances that I can arrange everything for you and I’m very proud to say that my construction company would be more qualified than any other construction company in Latvia to complete this project.”

Sanita was briefly confused.  “Mr Lipšitzs, didn’t you say it was your son-in-law’s construction company?”

Lipšitzs faked a coughing noise.  “My apologies.  My son-in-law’s company.  It was a slip of the tongue.  Sanita, have you approached anybody else in Latvia about this investment?”

Tomas piped up “We have, but we have mentioned to other parties that you are our preferred partner. We have had several meetings on Jēkaba iela with Valērijs…”

Sanita interrupted Tomas.  “Umm, Tomas, could I ask you to get a little more ice from the freezer?  I’m sorry Mr Lipšitzs.  We must preserve confidentiality at all times.  We will be talking to various interested parties, but I can assure you that you are at the top of our list, and that’s where our focus is.”

Lipšitzs’ face froze.  His heart starting beating faster.  He felt the blood running from his head.  He knew it right away.  They’d been talking to Kapustins, and that’s why Kapustins must be trying to kill him using those Russian gunmen from Nemesis Security.  Kapustins wanted the three billion euro Atlantium Kurzeme Resort shares and he was going to stop at nothing to make sure nobody else got the deal.

The meeting closed shortly afterwards.  Sanita, Tomas, and Valdis left the office saying they had to return to Gibraltar late that night.  In reality, they’d be staying at the SPA Hotel Usma Latvia on the banks of Usmas ezers before making their way back to Rīga the next day.

Later that evening, Lipšitzs got on the phone to the Latvian Finance Minister.

“Dita, now it’s certain that Kapustins was trying to kill me.  I’ve just found out he’s trying to edge me out of the Atlantium Kurzeme Resort deal.  I’ve heard it from the horse’s mouth.  I’m going to have to do something about him before it gets ugly.”

*

DZINTARU MEŽAPARKS, Jūrmala, just after 01:30 AM.

ALPHA:  “Acropolis calling Team 1 for radio check, over.”

BETA:  “Team 1 receiving loud and clear, over.”

ALPHA:  “Stand-by Team 1.  Acropolis calling Team 2 for radio check, over.”

EPSILON:  “Team 2 receiving loud and clear, over.”

ALPHA:  “Stand-by Team 2.”

Zeta signalled that the coast was clear from his position on Meža prospekts.  Gamma gave the all-clear from his position on Dzintaru prospekts.

ALPHA:  “Acropolis calling Team 1, confirm in position, over.”

BETA:  “Team 1 in position, over.”

ALPHA:  “Received Team 1. Stand-by.  Acropolis calling Team 2, confirm in position, over.”

EPSILON:  “Team 2 in position and ready to go!”

ALPHA:  “On my command… 3… 2… 1… engage!!!”

Almost two thousand rounds of link ammunition from the MG3 Machine Gun rained down across the southern aspect of the Kapustins residence as four 84mm anti-tank rounds ripped the eastern arm of the villa to pieces.

Epsilon, Theta and Eta abseiled down the side of the tower before being assisted by Alpha, Gamma, and Zeta to escape from the park.

Delta and Beta fled from the beach straight into the cold Baltic waters in their scuba equipment.  They’d be getting intercepted by Iota a little later in the inflatable raft so they could make their escape to a location further along the coast.

But during the heat of the attack, Kapustins was lying naked on his bedroom floor with two prostitutes from Minsk, screaming at them to do something.  Eventually Kapustins got onto his phone to the police.

“What do you mean ‘Where do you live?’  You know very well where I live!  What the hell do I pay you idiots for?  Get me out of here!!!  Lipšitzs is trying to kill me!!!”

*

At 6:00 am that morning, the Finance Minister, Dita Kaķīte-Bezbikse, was in an emergency meeting with the Interior Minister.

“Thank you for coming with such short notice, Ivars.  I think Aivars Lipšitzs and Valērijs Kapustins are trying to murder each other.  We’ve got a violent turf war on our hands and I think it’s something to do with that nine billion euro resort that Belize company wants to build.  What in God’s name are we going to do now?  Who do we side with?  They can both tear us to the ground!”

 

(to be continued Sunday 9th September, 2018)

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