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Latvian Newspaper "Diena" Reveals its Owners

February 02, 2012

"Latvian businessman Viesturs Koziols, who already owns a 51 percent stake in the joint-stock media company "Diena", has acquired 47.86 percent shares in the newspaper previously owned by the Rowland family, according to an announcement made by ''Diena'' today.

Thus, Koziols now controls 98.86 percent of ''Diena'' shares.

On the other hand, the magazine ''Ir'' reported today that Koziols could lose his shares in ''Diena''. Koziols previously took out a EUR 2.7 million loan from "Rigas tirdzniecibas osta" (Riga Commercial Port, RTO) to purchase the newspaper's shares.

RTO's board chairman Ralfs Klavins confirmed that the loan has not been repaid according to the loan agreement, thus RTO has the right to take over the shares in the newspaper.

''We are trying to find a solution to this situation. At the moment, RTO has not taken over any shares in ''Diena''. However, we do not deny that this could happen in the future,'' Klavins told ''Ir''.

As reported, the actual owners of the newspaper "Diena", at least the moment Viesturs Koziols became the formal owner of the newspaper's controlling interest in the summer of 2010, were Latvia's so-called oligarchs Ainars Slesers, Andris Skele and Aivars Lembergs, the portal "pietiek.com" reports, based on the Corruption Prevention Bureau's findings during investigation into the so-called "oligarch case".

"Diena" was acquired via RTO, which, as the investigators believe, actually belongs, via a number of in-between companies, to Slesers, Skele and Lembergs. The acquisition of "Diena" was looked into as part of the investigation into property - including RTO - that actually belongs to the three oligarchs.

Corruption Prevention Bureau officers were tapping Slesers' phone and bugging his meetings with other people at the "Ridzene" hotel for a lengthy period. As a result, information was obtained that "Diena" actually belongs to the three said politicians, whereas the official owners were mere "managers" for the three, via which "Diena", as well as other enterprises, were run.

The evidence obtained during the investigation shows that Slesers owns a 36 percent stake in "Diena", Skele has 24 percent and Lembergs 20 percent, whereas RTO board chairman and co-owner Ralfs Klavins owns the other 20 percent in the newspaper, "pietiek.com" writes.

Klavins was convinced to finance the "Diena" acquisition deal by Slesers, who argued that RTO and "Dienas mediji", a mass medium that had an influence on the political process, should be viewed as a whole, because many decisions regarding RTO would depend on who is appointed premier and transport minister, and who would work in other ministries that participate in the selection of RTO board members.

The future of "Diena" was discussed at several meetings of the three oligarchs and their representatives, which took place at Skele's office on Dzirnavu Street, according to the findings. All decisions regarding the newspaper's management were coordinated with Slesers, Lembergs and Skele. In meetings with Slesers, Koziols said he would make sure that the newspaper works in the interest of the three, and that they would not be criticized by it.

Initially when the acquisition of "Diena" was discussed, Skele, Slesers and Lembergs also talked about merging "Diena" with the newspaper "Neatkariga", but Lembergs opposed the idea.

The investigators have also established that Slesers, via other companies, owns shares in RTO, "Jaunrigas attistibas uznemums", "Baltijas aviacijas sistemas", "Zakusalas Estates" and "Abi krasti". These shares are managed by several companies registered abroad, which are officially represented by Koziols, Tormud Stene Johanson and Bertolt Flick.

Koziols denies any connections with Slesers, and Slesers also denies that he is the actual owner of any of the said companies.

LETA also reported, the "Diena" concern includes the media companies "Dienas mediji", "Regionala Prese Diena" and "Dienas zurnali", as well as the firms "Abonesanas centrs Diena", "Dienas gramata", "Biznesa atbalsta grupa Pre Prio", "Poligrafijas grupa Mukusala" and "Mukusalas maja". Altogether 750 people are employed by the concern, including 286 at Dienas Mediji", "Regionala Prese Diena" and "Dienas zurnali"."