Saturday, 21 November, marks seven years since the tragedy of roof collapse at Maxima supermarket in Zolitūde, which took 54 lives.
Given that this is the largest and most complex criminal case in Latvia's history, there was increased attention in the course and outcome of its trial, and the judgement struck many. The accused civil engineer Ivars Sergets, who has been sentenced to six years in prison, was found guilty. The other eight accused were fully acquitted.
The criminal case of the Zolitūde tragedy has dragged on for a very long time, as reported numerous times over the years by LSM. This is also evident in the court's full judgement. It consists of more than 1,200 pages written over nine months since the verdict was delivered in January 2020.
The prosecutors, the victims and the accused who wish to appeal it shall have only 20 days to do so.
Regīna Ločmele, spokesperson for the “Zolitūde 21.11.” group representing the victims and their families, expressed her disappointment in the court's work:
“Nine months passed. In that time, a child is born, but our court cannot prepare a written judgement which can be appealed and finally give answers to the public, why of the nine [accused] there is only one [convicted] and what was the reason for the death of 54 people.”
“The volume is, of course, huge. In my experience, there has not yet been a case of this volume. If the court writes a sentence for more than nine months, then the defense must also have reasonable time to do so,” said Artūrs Zvejsalnieks, the defense counsel of the building engineer Ivars Sergets.
According to the judgement, as a result of the neglect by the engineer Ivars Sergets, a roof node was overburdened and the overloading of that node led to the collapse of the roof.
“Is anyone in this world likely to believe that Sergets alone is guilty? What can be seen from the court's judgement is the adjacent decisions that cannot be forgotten. Of course, this investigation was incomplete, and one very important detail was not addressed, the operation of this Vikom Industry,” said Zvejsalnieks.
In the court's view, criminal proceedings should also be initiated against the roof manufacturer and installer Vikom Industry. Meanwhile, the other eight accused – experts, architects, construction managers, officials of the Riga Building Board and the then Maxima's labor safety specialists – are acquitted by the court. The judgement recognizes that indictments are not comprehensible and are uncertain, pointing to the shortcomings of the Prosecutor's Office.
“There is a very different opinion among the victims. The victims think, maybe not everyone accused, but [some have been] proven guilty. Why was such a mechanism made in the country? Why are there such steps and in each of the stages there are responsible persons? If one construction engineer is guilty, then, in principle, all stages are lost in the construction process,” said the victim advocate Jevgenija Tverjanoviča-Bore.
The prosecutors have not yet commented on the judgement. In the meantime, the victims are considering recourse of the court against the State.
“If there are no perpetrators, who is at fault? The state! Who has prepared, approved and retained the laws that led to this tragedy,” said Ločmele.
The court itself did not find any time to comment on this, pointing to the press conference forthcoming this week.