Chapter Twelve: Lietuvēns.
Surprise, surprise… Valērijs Kapustins struck a plea deal with the Latvian prosecutors. Who would have thought?
When you have a couple billion euros to play with, hidden around the world, you have a couple billion bargaining chips available.
Credit where it’s due to the prosecutors, they were acting in the interest of a noble cause, and Kapustins had to make some rather large concessions. He agreed to surrender his Latvian passport and renounce his Latvian citizenship. He promised to fully cooperate with the state investigators by providing an exhaustive account of his finances, including all assets owned by him both directly, and indirectly through offshore companies. To top it off, he agreed to assist the Latvian state with the seizure of his assets, their liquidation, and re-appropriation of the money back to public finances.
In return for helping to repay the Latvian national debt, Kapustins would only be required to serve two years in custody, and that would be done as a home detention scheme in his country villa near Bauska. He would also be allowed to keep some of his money after he being released from custody… just enough to retire with the standard of living to which a relatively anonymous small-time millionaire would be accustomed. Also as part of the plea deal, he was going to be granted immunity from any attempts to extradite him from Latvia to face justice in other countries.
If you could have seen his country villa near Bauska, your would have needed to do a lot of mental gymnastics to feel convinced that serving two years in that place was a “punishment”. He was even going to be allowed to host parties there on Visitors Day. Nonetheless, he was losing his freedom for a while and, best of all, he would be losing almost all of his stolen money.
That’s one of the big advantages of stealing large amounts of money. That very same money can be used to keep you out of prison when you eventually get caught. The only advice a demon like myself could give to any would-be thieves is this: If you’re going to steal money, make sure you steal a lot. It’s the reason why, in the past, somebody who had stolen a packet of Lays potato chips from Elvi would be more likely to face justice than somebody who has stolen upward from 100 million euros. You can’t evade justice after being caught stealing a packet of Lays by offering each of the prosecutors a chicken-flavoured chip.
With the plea deal signed between Kapustins and the prosecutors, the long and complex process of recovering his hidden assets began in earnest.
An auditing firm was appointed. None of the Big Four accounting firms were picked for this task. They had too much of a track record for sneaky conduct in Latvia. In any case, many of the auditors working for the Baltic divisions of these firms had fled from Latvia as criminal investigators starting drawing up lists of auditors who should be arrested. Around that time, one of the big accounting firms was about to be sued by the Latvian Government through the courts in London. For many years, they had been dishonestly giving positive audit opinions for companies owned by Kapustins. The Latvian Government was suing this particular firm for over two billion euros.
Then, something really weird happened.
As the new firm of auditors completed their comprehensive review of Kapustins’ finances, they discovered that over 65 million euros was unaccounted for. Upon further investigation, they found that 65 million euros had been transferred out of an account held by a British Virgin Islands company controlled by Kapustins to an unknown recipient in Cyprus. This transfer occurred only a matter of twenty four hours after Kapustins had signed his plea deal.
That did not go down well, at all.
Now, Kapustins just about swore on a stack of bibles twenty feet tall that he hadn’t transferred the money and he insisted that he had no idea where the money had gone. The prosecutors didn’t believe one word of that. They alleged to the Judge that Kapustins had already broken the plea deal. The Judge agreed, and immediately rejected the deal. Unfortunately for Kapustins, the Judge took a very dim view of his attempt to withhold money from the State.
“Mr Valērijs Kapustins, you are guilty of 567 separate offences which have been read before this Court earlier today. Those offences were neither trivial, nor will they be regarded by this Court as trivial. You were offered the opportunity to right many of the wrongs you have committed, in return receiving a measure of forgiveness from this Court and a great measure of leniency in your sentencing. You have clearly shown contempt for the mercy that was to be given to you, which is a degree of mercy that you have never shown to those who became your victims throughout your criminal life. I do not subscribe to the notion that a person who has been offered a second chance in life, and who has knowingly and willfully jeopardised that opportunity, should be given yet a third chance to redeem themselves. In light of this most recent evidence brought before this Court, namely, that you misappropriated 65 million euros in direct breach of an agreement that you had made with the Prosecutors of this case, that you did so to unjustly enrich yourself, and in light of your dogged refusal to cooperate with those who seek only to serve the public interest, I cannot give consideration to a more appropriate sentence than the sentence I am about to prescribe for you. Mr Valērijs Kapustins, this Court hereby prescribes that you serve a custodial sentence of twenty five years in prison, with hard labour, with a non-parole period of twenty years.”
Kapustins fainted and the court room burst into resounding applause. He would be destined to live a long, sad and lonely existence in a grimy jail cell in a prison called Daugavpils Cietums. Like Rudolf Hess, who was condemned to spend the rest of his life as the only prisoner in Spandau Prison, Kapustins would be the only prisoner held in that atrocious hellhole in Latvia’s east.
Crowds of people gathered outside the Court roared with cheering and applause, and media cameras exploded into a kaleidoscope of flashes as the Latvian National Police lead Kapustins from the Court to an armoured van that waited to take him straight to prison. Kapustins did not carry himself with grace or elegance.
He quivered uncontrollably with tears running like rivers down his cheeks as the police dragged him towards the prison van while he struggled to catch his own breath. Kapustins made a desperate last minute appeal to the media. Shaking like a leaf, he bellowed out to the television cameras,
“I didn’t do anything wrong! Some thief stole the money! You’ve got to believe me… somebody must have stolen my money!!!”
Crowds of Latvians booed and hissed at him as police threw him into the back of the prison van that would take him straight to Daugavpils. When the police slammed the van door shut, there was more applause and cheering from onlookers who had gathered nearby. The van departed under a joint Police and National Guard escort, and it is said that people could still hear Kapustins wailing from inside the van that he didn’t take the missing 65 million euros.
Several hours later, the prison van arrived in Daugavpils on 18. Novembra iela, outside Daugavpils Cietums, only to face more media cameras. As the police pulled Kapustins out of the prison van, he collapsed onto his knees, pleading with the Latvian public to believe the he didn’t do anything wrong. As the police officers tried to lift him off the ground, he caught sight of the prison gates awaiting him and he started to dry retch. Then he spewed down the front of his shirt. Kapustins made an emotional, hysterical appeal for Latvia to reconsider his fate, but it would be to no avail. In that final moment, Kapustins, like a modern day Dr Faust, was filled with morbid and sorrowful regret for the life he had chosen, but there was nothing he could do as the Latvian National Police dragged him screaming through the Gates of Hell.
That year, the corrupt elements of Latvian society all ended up suffering unpleasant fates. Some would end up in prison. Some were found dead. Many ended up living in squalor as they hid from justice in Third World countries long after their briefcases of money had run out.
The people who had fought against corruption all went on to lead wonderful, prosperous lifestyles. Sanita and her friends didn’t last long as bottom-rung employees in the French hospitality industry. The money they earned from the media release of the Kapustins and Lipšitzs Tapes, not to mention the earnings from television interviews, magazine deals, and guest speaker gigs at business luncheons, was quite satisfying for them. They now own half the hospitality industry in Juan-les-Pins.
As for Valērijs Kapustins, well, he was not only in jail, but he was eventually reduced to poverty. The last time I took a peek inside the prison where he was being kept, he had become rather skilled at making traditional Latvian handicrafts. He still lives in hope that he might get his sentence reduced on appeal. If he ever gets out of prison, he hopes to open an arts and crafts shop in Maskavas Forštate, but only if he can find somebody to give him a loan.
THE END? NOT QUITE
I suppose you’re wondering what became of Kostya Rodionov? There’s been hardly any mention of him since he finished going through Kapustins’ financial documents in that strong room where the Kapustins Ledger was kept.
Well, several years after Kapustins went to prison, one of the Prometheans gave a “tell all” interview to a popular Latvian current affairs program under a condition of anonymity. During that interview, he told the story of KGB Agent Kostya Rodionov. It became a public sensation in Latvia, and the journalist who interviewed him was nominated for many international awards.
Practically overnight, the name Kostya Rodionov became legendary in Latvia. Naturally, the media wasn’t going to let the matter rest there so, one afternoon, a television video and sound crew went around to Rodionov’s cottage in Skrunda, hoping to get a candid interview with the man himself.
Sadly for the television crew, Rodionov was no longer living there. The new occupants, said that Mr Rodionov sold the cottage to them around the same time that Kapustins was sent to prison. They described him as a very kind man. When he learned that they were a family who had been struggling financially since losing their family home in Ziedciems, he sold them the cottage for half the market price. To the best of their knowledge, Rodionov had moved to Ukraine.
The current affairs research team scoured Ukraine high and low to locate Rodionov and, after many months of near exhaustive searching, they indeed discovered that Rodionov had returned to the city of his boyhood: Kharkiv.
When they finally met with Rodionov, he was a little reticent. He was only willing to be interviewed on the condition that his location would not be made public. Mind you, it wasn’t much of an interview. Rodionov denied having any knowledge of the Prometheans and he denied just about everything else, at that. He even seemed a little nebulous as to who Kapustins was, saying that he didn’t pay much attention to the financial media.
So, that evening, as Latvians turned on their televisions to watch the evening news, the only thing that the viewers could be told was that Kostya Rodionov owned a shiny new Rolls Royce Phantom, a sleek metallic grey Lamborghini Centenario, and he was living in a resplendent 39 million euro Ukrainian baroque mansion with a large alabaster gibbon water feature in the middle of a spectacular floral garden, where he kept his German-manufactured EDM Aerotec helicopter.
Rodionov played down his opulent lifestyle. He admitted to owning the cars and the helicopter, but insisted that the mansion was owned by a company called the Danish-Icelandic Trading Company of Cyprus, registered in the Channel Islands.
From that day onwards, Rodionov shunned the limelight, refusing all further requests for interviews. He even declined a potentially lucrative book deal offered to him by an Australian author.
Kostya Rodionov never returned to Latvia. Choosing to keep a low profile, he went on to live a serene life of sheer luxury in his native Kharkiv. And to this very day, nobody seems to know where he got the money.
Message from the author, Christopher Akenfelds: “I wish to thank all my readers over the past four months who have been very supportive of the “Lietuvēns” project. There will be a sequel coming out some time during 2019, which will be entitled “The Danish-Icelandic Trading Company of Cyprus”. Kostya Rodionov will be back!”