Court acquits four in digital TV corruption case

Rīga Regional Court on June 20 delivered its verdict in the so-called digital television case, overruling the earlier conviction of former National Theater director Ojars Rubenis but giving fines and real jail sentences to other defendants in the case, though in some cases with slightly reduced penalties.

Apart from Rubenis, the judges of the appeals court also acquitted Didzis Jonovs, a former state trustee at the Latvian State Radio and Television Center (LVRTC), business advisor Valdis Purvinskis and LVRTC state trustee Adrians Boldans. The court of the first instance had slapped an EUR 18,000 fine on each of them.

Jurgis Liepnieks, a former advisor to Latvian ex-premier Andris Skele, was fined with EUR 67,080 and Andrejs Ekis, the former head of LNT commercial television, was given a EUR 40,850 fine.

The judges also handed down a real jail sentence of nine months and a fine of EUR 26,230 to Guntars Spunde, the former director general of the Latvian State Digital Radio and Television Center (DLRTC). Lawyer Janis Loze received a jail sentence of one year and nine months and was fined with EUR 33,540.

Andrejs Zabeckis, a former board member of Kempmayer Media Latvia was sentenced to two years and nine months in jail, and Janis Zips, also a former board member of Kempmayer Media Latvia, received a jail sentence of one year and nine months and a fine of EUR 22,790. Janis Svarpsons, who also used to sit on the Kempmayer Media Latvia management board, was given two years and nine months behind bars and a fine of EUR 22,790.

The sentences given by the court of first instance were reduced on appeal for all defendants based on the provision on hearing a case within a reasonable time.

The regional court’s ruling can still be appealed before the Supreme Court.

Court action in the digital TV case started back in November 2007.

Proceedings in the digital TV case were launched over a deal concluded in 2002 between DLRTC and the UK-registered Kempmayer Media Ltd to ensure Latvia’s transition to digital terrestrial broadcasting is several phases. Under the contract, Latvia had committed to paying 53.5 million US dollars for the first phase of the project in which digital terrestrial television had to be provided in Riga and its region. On Aug. 31, 2006, an international court of arbitration in Stockholm invalidated the contract.

The Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) on Sept. 1, 2003, opened a criminal case in relation to the digital TV project at the request of the then transport minister Roberts Zile. The criminal case was opened for intentional criminal actions and neglect on part of the state officials and was later expanded to include charges of large-scale fraud and money laundering as well as conspiracy.

As many as 20 individuals were initially charged in the digital TV case, including former LVRTC director general Maris Pauders, who is currently facing proceedings to submit him to compulsory medical care because of his health issues. Former LVRTC trustee Inara Rudaka who was also charged in the case died in 2013, so the number of defendants in the case has decreased to 18 by now.

None of the defendants in the digital TV case pleaded guilty to the charges laid against them.

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