Chapter Eleven: Lietuvēns
The Latvileaks Scandal rocked the financial world.
Eight members of the Prometheans working together as fast as they could photographed every page of the Kapustins Ledger and supporting documentation over a space of about five hours. Nobody took a break. They uploaded almost nine thousand photographs in files that could be accessed by anybody via a WordPress website they created called Latvileaks. They paid for the site using the debit card linked to their bank account in Cyprus.
Latvileaks went viral in no time at all.
Within three days, Latvileaks had over 650,000 hits from Latvia and close to two million hits across Europe, with another quarter of a million hits from countries elsewhere in the world.
The European media went crazy over the story. So did some media outlets in Latvia, although it was quite amazing that there were a few Latvian media agencies that made no mention of the Latvileaks scandal at all.
Before long, the number of hits received by the Latvileaks site reached close to 110 million hits worldwide. Marketing agencies from London to Los Angeles, from Sydney to Dubai, from Hong Kong to Paris, from Mexico City to Athens clambered to buy advertising space on the site.
Advertising revenue started tumbling into the Prometheans’ account in Nicosia.
As Latvians became acutely aware of the extent to which the oligarchs hand sunk their grubby hands into every nook and cranny of their nation’s governance, pervading the state like the ghastly smell of rotting cabbage, protest marches gained momentum in every major town and city. But the outrage was not limited to Latvians. The documents revealed on the Latvileaks site suggested that the management of a major European bank had been up to their elbows in mud, too, helping Kapustins steal money from Latvian taxpayers. It was not lost on the citizens of the many countries that held shares in this corrupt bank that their taxes had been stolen, too.
One cheeky pundit writing for a major newspaper in London referred to this bank as The European Bank for Deconstruction and Embellishment. I’ll let you guess for yourself if you know which bank he was talking about. A multi-national investigation was launched into the role that the bank had played in financing criminal oligarchs throughout Eastern Europe, with several senior staff members disappearing into thin air.
They weren’t the only ones who did a vanishing act. Latvia experienced a whole new exodus. This time, it wasn’t innocent Latvian citizens escaping the cruel invasion of Soviet troops. Nor was it poor Latvian families fleeing from economic hardship to seek better paid jobs in Ireland and the UK.
Not at all! This time, a wealthy political and economic elite were fleeing from Latvia with little more than the clothes they were wearing and whatever cash that could shove into a briefcase before they left. Politicians, government ministers both past and present, judges, senior police officers, anti-corruption investigators, businessmen, even some newspaper editors got into the act. They didn’t just run from Latvia, though. They got out of Europe as fast as they could before any arrest warrants were issued. They were smart, because the arrest warrants from over 15 countries would eventually run into the thousands. Heads were on chopping blocks.
Lipšitzs did a disappearing act. He went to live in Pakistan, of all places. That didn’t turn out well for him. While hiding out in the western Pakistani city of Quetta, he was abducted under arms in broad daylight and spirited away to the Federally Administered Tribal Area. It looks like his security team was not the best that money could have bought. They were insiders to the abduction. From there, he was sold to a radical group based somewhere in ungoverned Afghanistan. They placed a 200 million euro ransom on his head. However, nobody seemed to be willing to pick up the bill.
Several oligarchs turned up as dead bodies in the Daugava River. Rumour has it that somebody in a large country to the east of Latvia didn’t want to risk the possibility of those men facing a court, where they might cut a deal in return for providing evidence.
Nobody knows what happened to the notorious oligarch Andris Šķiņķis. He was never seen again. There weren’t even any credible theories as to what became of him.
Sanita, who was now working as a maid at the Royal Riviera in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferat, anonymously released the Kapustins and Lipšitzs Tapes to the global media. If the public reaction to the Kapustins Ledger had been like a raging fire, releasing those tapes was like pouring petrol onto it.
Large, angry crowds gathered outside the House of the Livonian Nobility, which houses Latvia’s Parliament, as well as the Rīga Castle, which is the official residence of the Latvia’s President. The numbers that gathered – hundreds of thousands of angry citizens – were beyond the scope of Latvia’s riot police, and many members of the Latvian National Guard were refusing to present themselves for service in order to back up the police.
Dozens of Deputies of the Saeima packed their bags and raced against time to get out of Europe. They had been implicated in the Kapustins Ledger. Several Latvian politicians were detained by Police in Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom as they attempted to change planes for flights to South America.
The President of Latvia, in a desperate attempt to appease the citizens of his country, immediately called a referendum under Article 48 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia. The referendum was to ask the citizens of Latvia if they wished for him to dissolve the Saeima and call fresh elections. In the past, only one Latvian President had ever done that, namely, Mr Valdis Zatlers, who initiated a landslide referendum after an extremely unconscionable act by more than half of the Saeima.
The Prometheans released Slapjums unharmed shortly after they had got their hands on the Kapustins Ledger, and he organised an unsuccessful attempt to murder Lipšitzs before he fled from Latvia. He tried to have Lipšitzs assassinated by a group of men armed with crossbows, with the crossbow bolts dipped in botulinum neurotoxin. They missed.
Slapjums managed to get out of Latvia with a quite a lot of money. Rumour has it that he ended up in a Russian village called Barvikha, which is popular among wealthy power brokers who have run away from something. Then, for a long time, there was talk in European Union criminal intelligence circles that he had commenced negotiations with a group of terrorists to obtain the release of a hostage they were holding. Slapjums ended up being murdered by a member of the Tambovskaya Bratva who caught him cheating during a game of Texas Hold ‘Em poker.
Many months had passed in Latvia. The referendum to remove the Saeima from office passed with a resounding 96.8% “yes” vote, with a record 88.2% of voters participating. It was a very convincing outcome. Five major political parties completely collapsed, allowing voters to install a completely new government. Gone were the ex-Soviet fossils who had called the shots in Latvia for so many years. Gone were the politicians linked to the criminal business elite. The Saeima was now filled with younger, more intelligent, better educated people, who came from normal families in Latvia, who had no KGB past, and who were ready to serve their country with integrity. After those elections, you could have counted the number of sleazy politicians in the Saeima on one hand.
That new government went to work immediately. There was a major overhaul of the anti-corruption agencies in Latvia. The police came under new leadership. The judiciary had to be restructured, especially given that so many judges had fled from the country after being named in the Kapustins Ledger.
The Kapustins Ledger had proven what many Latvians had suspected: that 0.5% of the country was living in unparalleled opulence while 99.5% of Latvians were paying for it. Just like capitalism, you say? No, not really. There is a very big difference between the entrepreneur and the kleptocrat. The entrepreneur develops an idea, risks his life savings, becomes affluent through lawful commercial success, creates jobs, elevates many people to better standards of living, and advances their nation, while contributing positively to the national economy. The kleptocrat, on the other hand, steals from the state, accepts bribes, pays bribes, commits fraud, blackmail, and extortion, while lowering the standard of living, destroying jobs, and befouling the international reputation of their nation. Entrepreneurs are to be admired, but kleptocrats are pure evil. There could never be any defence for the kleptocrat, except in the minds of the most naive and scatterbrained people.
Of course, if you’re still paying attention to this story, I’m sure that I’m preaching to the converted!
The Latvian courts issued hundreds upon hundreds of international arrest warrants via Interpol.
Houses, mansions, and villas were raided across the nation by the Latvian Police. The bank accounts of suspect individuals were frozen all around the world. Vehicles were impounded. Private jets and superyachts were seized. Laptops, mobile phones, and corporate documents were taken into possession by police. The FBI in the United States became involved. So did Scotland Yard in the United Kingdom. Associates of Latvian oligarchs and former politicians were arrested in London, Paris, Helsinki, Valletta, Kiev, and Chișinău, as well as in New York, Vancouver, and Sydney.
Several banks in Switzerland and Luxembourg came under investigation. There were also quite a few suicides.
At this point in time, the Prometheans decided to hand Valērijs Kapustins over to the Latvian Police. They had been holding him hostage for a long time, and they were sick of him.
It was a beautiful sunny afternoon in the picturesque township of Cēsis, often said to be the most Latvian town in all of Latvia, when the local police found Valērijs Kapustins bound and gagged on the side of the road at the corner of Gaujas iela and Tipogrāfijas iela, after receiving an anonymous phone call from a man who spoke fluent Latvian with a slightly French accent, and who identified himself as a visiting French citizen called “Emmanuel Cochet”.
The arrest of Valērijs Kapustins attracted global media attention. The headline that featured around the world summed it up: “The Most Hated Man in Latvia”.
The police officers who placed him under arrest and charged him with 567 separate criminal offences became national heroes. Those guys didn’t have to pay for a beer anywhere they went. For a while, it was virtually impossible for those officers to walk into any restaurant, bar, or cafe without getting a standing ovation. The senior officer who was in charge of bringing Kapustins to justice would go on the leave the police a year later, making tens of thousands of euros an hour on the international lecture circuit. Meanwhile, the newly appointed head of the Latvian Police became known to the Eastern European Mafia as the most feared man in Europe.
As for the Prometheans, well, they never got a scrap of credit for their role in all of this. Nobody found out who they were. That didn’t matter. They weren’t interested in credit. They were “cash” kind of guys! Their Latvileaks website ended up being the goose that laid the golden egg. The Prometheans made so much money from that site, they all ended up living in beautifully furnished, large coastal houses. The Prometheans joined the A-List and spent their spare time sitting in jacuzzis with supermodels from Estonia.
Latvia would go on to establish itself as a very strong and ethical Rule of Law nation, eventually toppling one of the Scandinavian nations from its Number One position on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. Latvia became least corrupt country in the world.
Investment capital started pouring into Latvia, and diaspora Latvians started returning to Latvia to take advantage of the many job opportunities that were created. Years afterwards, one financial writer for Reuters World News would famously dub the city of Rīga as “The El Dorado of the Baltics”.
Indeed, Latvia had undergone a Fourth Latvian Awakening and the transformation of that nation was miraculous and glorious.
But forget about all that. You probably want to know what happened to Kapustins.
Well, his team of lawyers worked around the clock to find a way to leverage his great wealth to get him off the hook lightly. They came up with a plea deal that would be very difficult for any prosecutor to refuse.
“I am Peter Furneaux, reporting for Reuters World News outside the Rīga District Court in Maskavas Forštate, Latvia.”
“Large crowds have gathered outside the Rīga District Court here on Aiviekstes iela, as people wait patiently for the outcome of the highest profile criminal case in Latvian history, the prosecution of Valērijs Kapustins.”
“There has been suggestions that Kapustins may have struck a plea deal with the prosecutors, although the terms of the deal are, as yet, unknown. While thousands of people carrying placards stand behind the police cordons erected around the court, chanting for Kapustins be given the maximum sentence, some legal experts have anticipated that a softer sentence does seem more likely at this point in time.”
“Meanwhile, riot place are standing by in the event of ugly scenes, should Valērijs Kapustins receive a lenient sentence through a successful plea deal. The Prime Minister of Latvia has called for calm, and urged Latvians to let the court get on with the job of administering justice as per law.”
“As we await the outcome of this trial, the atmosphere here on Aiviekstes iela is electric.”
“I am Peter Furneaux for Reuters World News, outside the Rīga District Court in Latvia.”
(Final installment on Sunday 7th October, 2018)