Ossinovski to be tried in Latvia, but media methods restricted

The Limbazi district court on September 8 denied the request by Estonian millionaire Oleg Ossinovski, accused of large-scale bribery, to separate the charges against him and the co-defendant Ugis Magonis into separate proceedings and let him be tried in Estonia, reported Latvian Radio.  

Ossinovski's representatives had made the request as the alleged crime had taken place in Estonia. Furthermore, they said the proceedings are taking place in Latvian so Ossinovski cannot understand the case, and that the court has to ensure all documents are translated which further encumbers the work of the court.

The Limbaži district court judge Kārlis Jansons denied the request as the case features many witnesses from Latvia who would find it difficult to appear before the court in Estonia. He set the date of the next hearing for January 15, 2018.

Later on September 8 the court lowered the bail money posted by Magonis' wife to €200,000 from €400,000 and the difference will be repaid to his wife.

It also cancelled a ban on meetings between Magonis and Ossinovski, but did not lift the restriction to leave the country, reported LETA.

Magonis' representatives supported the request as well. 

But in an equally contentious ruling, the judge barred media from using sound or video recording equipment in the court room, even though the case is probably the highest-profile case of the year as far as the participants are concerned and have stimulated great public interest owing to the wealth and renown of the accused.

The media ban was instigated at the request of Magonis.

The Latvian Journalists Association protested against the ruling Friday afternoon, saying it restricted the media's ability to tell the public exactly what was happening, and that this in turn threatened to undermine public confidence in the legal process. 

Before the court, Ossinovski and Magonis demonstrated different conduct. Magonis was not talkative. He was asked whether he wants to offer comment and replied: "No! Of course not! I do not want to!"

While Ossinovski stressed he won't be pleading guilty. "Being here is the last thing I wanted to do. I'm not glad to be here ... I have to save my reputation ... I hope the proceedings will be quick and transparent," said Ossinovski.

 

Consequently, media will be restricted to the old fashioned pen-and-paper means of transcribing proceedings.

As reported, the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau in August 2015 arrested former Latvian Railways boss and business high-flyer Magonis. 

Ugis Magonis, former boss of Latvian Railways, is accused of accepting €499,500 as a bribe, while Estonian millionaire Oleg Ossinovski is charged with giving the bribe.

The case involves a transaction in which the Latvian Railways subsidiary LDz Ritosa Sastava Serviss bought four old locomotives for several million euros from Ossinovski’s company Skinest.

Ossinovski denies any corrupt practices in the sale of the locomotives.

Accepting a large-scale bribe carries a prison sentence of up to ten years.

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