Arrests made in 'rush hour' murder case after four years

Four years after the murder of lawyer and insolvency administrator Mārtiņš Bunkus, the State Police has managed to identify virtually the entire chain of persons involved, and on Tuesday several persons were detained, Latvian Televsion reported May 24.

The police currently refrain from commenting on the number of individuals, their identity and their roles in the crime. According to unofficial information available to LTV, businessmen Mihails Uļmans and Aleksandrs Babenko are among those who have been detained. 

Romāns Jašins, chief of Division 1 of the State Police Criminal Investigation Board, said: "This is clearly one of the largest cases of contract killing in the history of the State Police, which has also had extensive public resonance and continued interest in the progress of police work. It should be said that investigating cases of this level with such intense public interest is not a simple task, and often the police also refused to give more insight into what has been done in order not to interfere with its progress. But now the investigation is at a stage that we can safely say that it has become successful.

"We have identified the chain of almost every person involved in the crime, from the hiring party to the organizer to the performer, and today, May 24, the State Police have carefully carried out detentions during the planned operation."

At present, the case has been re-qualified in accordance with the fifth paragraph of Article 118 of the Criminal Law for murder in particularly aggravating circumstances, if committed by an organized group. Persons may be punished for such a criminal offence by life imprisonment or by deprivation of liberty for a period of fifteen to twenty years and subject to probation supervision for a period of up to three years, confiscating property or without confiscation of property.

Criminal proceedings will continue, so the State Police cannot provide any more detailed information. “It is now important to bring this work to an end before we can provide more public information on criminal proceedings. As soon as the State Police can come up with more specific information, it will inform the public,” the police said.

Chief of State Police Armands Ruks said: “The investigation has got a clear picture of the circumstances of committing the crime and the persons involved, and at the same time we also call on those who have not provided all the information known to them in the context of the investigation, or persons who may yet testify, to apply themselves willingly and to cooperate with the police. Don't wait in this case when the criminal police knock on your door. State police guarantee anonymity.”

On May 30, 2018, insolvency administrator Mārtiņš Bunkus was shot in broad daylight in his vehicle. Though the police said they had enough evidence later that same year, no arrests were ever made. The murder caused broad public resonance, including a lawsuit by Bunkus' family against MP Aldis Gobzems for defamation.

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