Digital television criminal case: ex-Latvian government officials risk landing in prison

The prosecutor in charge of the digital television criminal case Monvīds Zelčs has requested the Court of Economic Affairs in Latvia to sentence ex-prime minister Andris Šķēle to three years in prison and confiscation of property and ex-minister of transport Ainārs Šlesers to a fine of EUR 65 000.
With witness interviews over, court debates commenced last week. Prosecutor Monvīds Zelčs was the first to present his speech.
The prosecutor asked the court to declare Šķēle guilty of fraud and money laundering and sentence him to three months in prison, a fine of EUR 75 000 and confiscation of property without probation period. BNN previously reported that authorities have arrested Šķēle’s owned company shares.
The prosecutor has also requested enforcing EUR 1 266 355 from the former politician. The prosecutor believes this money was illegally obtained.
As for Šlesers, the prosecutor has requested for the court to declare him guilty of fraud and sentence him to a fine of EUR 65 000 without confiscation of property and probation.
For the former board chairman of Tet telecommunications company (prev. Lattelecom) Juris Gulbis the prosecutor has requested a fine of EUR 75 000, for the former state secretary to the Ministry of Transport Nils Freivalds he has requested a fine of EUR 60 000 and for the former board chairman of Latvian State Radio and Television Centre Lauris Dripe the prosecutor has requested a fine of EUR 75 000. The prosecutor also said the former board member of SIA Hannu Digital Gintars Kavacis should be fined EUR 75 000.
For then the commercial director of Tet Jānis Ligers the prosecutor has requested a fine of EUR 60 000, for the company’s business department lead Toms Ābele the prosecutor has requested a fine of EUR 50 000 and for the business support office manager Toms Meisītis – a fine of EUR 45 000.
For Gulbis, Freivalds, Dripe, Kavacis, Ligers, Ābele and Meisītis the prosecutor has requested declaring them guilty of fraud. At the same time, the prosecutor has not requested confiscation of property and probation.
As for the crime Šķēle is accused of – laundering of illegally obtained finances – and the fact that 12 years have passed since then, the punishment for him is to be set at the minimal level with added confiscation of property, said the prosecutor.
The prosecutor added in court debates that SIA Hannu Digital is to be subjected to a coercive measure – enforcement of EUR 2 million.
Prosecutor Monvīds Zelčs adds that since all of the accused except Šķēle are not requested to be applied with confiscation of property and no request has been submitted to compensate caused damages from them, the arrest put on their property is to be lifted.
Kaspars Vecozols, who is the judge presiding over this case, told LTV that a ruling may be announced as early as the end of January 2022. The four next court hearings will feature debates with defence attorneys of the accused. The hearings after that will focus on last words of the accused and verdict announcement.
The next hearing is scheduled for 4 January 2021.
As previously reported, there are nine suspects in the criminal case regarding fraud committed in a group: ex-Prime Minister of Latvia Šķēle, ex-Minister of Transport Šlesers, ex-chairman of the board of SIA Tet Gulbis, ex-state secretary to the Ministry of Transport Nils Freivalds, as well as former chairman of the board of Latvian State Radio and Television Centre Lauris Dripe. Among the accused are also Lattelecom (Tet) commercial director at the time Jānis Ligers, Business Office lead Toms Ābele, Business Support Office lead Toms Meisītis and former board member of Hannu Digital Gintars Kavacis.
The aforementioned people are accused of money laundering, specifically activities related to the tender organized by the Ministry of Transport in 2008 and the contracts signed between SIA Tet, SIA Hannu Digital and Latvian State Radio and Television Centre, as the office of the prosecutor told journalists.
The accused are believed to have acted together to make sure SIA Hannu Digital wins in the project and receives financing worth several million euros. In the process, however, the national project’s overall costs were artificially inflated.
Prosecutor Monvīds Zelčs said each member of the group had a specific role. He did not mention the possible amount the group had acquired through money laundering but information from LETA indicates it may have been about EUR 3 million.
Šķēle is also accused of money laundering. According to information from LETA, he is accused of laundering approximately one million euros.
The criminal acts are believed to had been committed between 2008 and 2009, when the Ministry of Transport organised a procurement for the adoption of digital television, followed by the signing of contracts with SIA Hannu Digital.
Although Tet did not register as a victim in this criminal procedure, the prosecutor pointed out that this fact will not undermine the case.
Another criminal case is currently under review by Riga Regional Court. It is the so-called digital television case. This one is related to the agreement of Digital Latvian Radio and Television Centre (DLRTC) and Kempmayer Media Limited subsidiary Kempmayer Media Latvia on introducing digital television in multiple stages and supplying to Latvia different equipment for digital television. The project’s overall costs are estimated at several dozen million lats.
So far the case has been in different courts. In 2020 the Supreme Court of Justice cancelled the ruling on the declaration of Andrejs Ēķis, Jurģis Liepnieks and others as guilty. The court did maintain the ruling on the acquittal of other persons in place.
In summer 2019 Riga Regional Court declared a number of people guilty, including Jurģis Liepnieks, who was sentenced to a fine of EUR 67 080 and former director of LNT television channel Andrejs Ēķis was sentenced to a fine of EUR 40 850.
Once the director general of DLRTC Guntars Spunde was sentenced to nine months in prison and a fine of EUR 26 230. Lawyer Jānis Loze was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison and a fine of EUR 33 540.
Former board member of Kempmayer Media Latvia Andrejs Zabeckis was sentenced to two years and nine months of prison. Former Kempmayer Media Latvia board member Jānis Svārpstons was sentenced to two years and nine month in prison and a fine of EUR 22 790.
The court also acquitted former National Theatre director Ojārs Rubenis, former Latvian State Radio and Television Centre’s public trustee Didzis Jonovs, business consultant Valdis Purvinskis and LVRTC public trustee Adrians Boldans. The first instance court also sentenced all of them to a fine of EUR 18 000 each.
Šķēle’s name was also mentioned in the context of this particular criminal case as well even though no charges were presented to him.