Review of criminal case involving notorious Latvian politicians moves forward as court prepares to interview witnesses

On 7 October Latvian Court of Economic Affairs plans to continue interviewing witnesses in the second digital television criminal case, in which ex-politician Andris Šķēle, politician Ainārs Šlesers and former SIA Tet board chairman Juris Gulbis and others are the accused.
Public media writes that on 27 September the court interviewed ex-Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis. It was during his government that the rules that allowed Lattelecom become the implementer of digital television were passed. Godmanis stressed in court that he trusted Šlesers in this topic.
Previously judge Kaspars Vecozols told journalists after the first meeting that it will be necessary to interview more than 50 witnesses in this criminal case.
Considering the large number of participants, the court will require 48 hearings to interview them all.
Vecozols said it is hard to predict how long these hearings may take. He did say, however, that from September onward the court with convene at least twice a week to review this case.
On 21 June the newly-formed Court of Economic Affairs commenced the review of the second digital television criminal case.
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The case is viewed by judge Vecozols. His previous experience includes working as legal advisor in the Legal and Licensing Department of the Finance and Capital Market Commission, lawyer in the Civil Rights Department of the Ministry of Justice, and national expert during Latvia’s presidency over the European Union Council. He was also an assistant to Saeima deputy and had ties to New Era political party.
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.