Corrupt former senior customs official sentenced to 6 years

The Riga city court, Vidzeme district, has sentenced the former head of the Criminal Administration of the Customs service, Vladimirs Vaškevičs, to six years in prison for crimes of corruption, the LETA news agency reported April 9.

However, the sentence was delivered in absentia. Vaškevičs was detained by the Corruptiom Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) way back in 2011, but was later released on bail of 85,000 euros. He left for Austria, supposedly for medical treatment but has never returned to Latvia, and might now be in Russia.

KNAB arrested Vaškevičs on suspicion of giving a EUR 50,000 bribe to the then Director of the Customs Department of the State Revenue Service (SRS) Tālis Kravalis, in order to ensure a favorable decision in an inspection case initiated against a company, as well as to prevent inspections from being carried out against other specific persons and companies. Even before then he was a notorious figure, with a 2007 incident involving a bomb in his car, from which he walked away, well known.

In 2018, the Austrian Prosecutor's Office said that Vaškevičs' extradition to Latvia was impossible, as his health condition precluded any kind of transportation. However, serious doubts about the reality of his ailment have been expressed, particularly after an expose by the TV3 investigative show "Nothing Personal".

The Latvian Prosecutor's Office announced after the "Nothing Personal" story that it would take into account what was mentioned in the story as additional information, but the Prosecutor's Office had already obtained evidence that Vaškevičs had obstructed the progress of the criminal process, including while he was still in Latvia.

"Nothing personal" also reported that Vaškevičs – whose Latvian passport lapsed in 2017 and has not been renewed – has moved to Moscow, where he acts as a business adviser of some sort. 

The case was later resumed with the accused absent. Now, 13 years after his arrest, a sentence has been handed down.

In 2022, Latvian Radio reported that 11 years into the criminal case, Vaškevičs was still technically an employee of the Ministy of Finance as he had been suspended pending an outcome of the trial rather than sacked. However, he was not receiving pay or other benefits.


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