All accused are acquitted in second 'digital TV' case

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The Economic Court has acquitted all those accused in the second so-called 'digital TV' criminal case, reported Latvian Radio and LTV January 31. 

The judgment can be appealed to the Riga Regional Court.

The Court of First Instance delivered its summary judgment on Monday, 31 January ruling that none of the accused is guilty of fraud in connection with the introduction of digital television in Latvia.

In this case, the prosecutor's office prosecuted nine people including former Prime Minister Andris Šķele, former Minister of Transport Ainars Šlesers, and former chairman of the board at the Lattelecom telecoms company Juris Gulbis.

The prosecutor demanded that the former prime minister Škele be sentenced to three years' imprisonment and the recovery of more than 1.2 million euros. The other defendants, including Šlesers, had potentially faced fines of between € 45,000 and € 75,000.

Judge Kaspars Vecozols explained that the case was dismissed in part because Lattelecom (now known as Tet) did not consider itself a victim, and that without a victim it is difficult to establish that a criminal act has taken place. "This is an important, but not the only circumstance,” the judge explained.

Legal proceedings related to the digital TV case date back to 2008, when the Ministry of Transport organized a competition for the provision of terrestrial TV programs in digital format. It was alleged that various people, including both private businessmen and public officials had fraudulently enriched themselves during the tender process.

Lengthy and complex court cases followed. In a first trial, many of the accused were handed guilty verdicts and sentenced to fines and even prison terms, but following subsequent appeals a retrial was ordered involving many of the same defendants but also Šlesers and Šķele.

The full verdict is expected to be ready by February 24. However, the judge said it might take longer to prepare.

 

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