Hospital bribery scandal culprits admit guilt

The defendants in the Rīga's Children's Clinical University Hospital (BKUS) bribery case pleaded guilty at the Rīga City Pārdaugava Court and agreed to the penalties suggested by the Prosecutor's Office by signing an agreement on February 13, according to Latvian Television.

All eight defendants recognized that they signed the agreement knowingly and willingly. Their lawyers, as well as Prosecutor Māris Leja asked the court to attest to the agreement. The verdict will be handed down on February 20.

“We're pleased that the long process has ended!,” said hospital foundation representative Baiba Sprice.

The penalties include fines, partial confiscation of property, forced labor and conditional imprisonment. The prosecutor didn't ask for unconditional imprisonment, explaining his decision by comparing the situation with penalties in other corruption cases.

Defendants in the case include former hospital board member and Head of the Procurement Commission Arnis Kramzaks, former BKUS Administrative Manager Aivars Lisenko, State Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD) Inspector Juris Šmits, "Projektu vadības un attīstības birojs" (“Project Management and Development Office”) Board Member Raitis Muižnieks, as well as individuals Aleksandrs Kreicers, Sergejs Kravcovs, Georgijs Pimenovs and Mikhails Kreistsars.

Kramzaks and Lisenko were accused of attempted fraud and taking bribes. Šmits was accused of taking bribes, but Pimenovs and Kreistsars of bribery. Kreicers was accused of assisting attempted fraud and also bribery. Muižnieks was accused of assisting attempted fraud, as well as taking bribes. Lastly, Kravcovs was accused of fraud.

The courts began proceedings in regards to the BKUS bribery case on February 5, 2013. According to the accusations Kramzaks convinced construction companies to artificially inflate the prices for various procurements with plans to choose them in the end. The fraudulent amounts vary from a few hundred to tens of thousands of lats. The victims in the case include BKUS and the Children's Hospital Fund, which have requested compensation of 118,652 euros and 11,183 euros respectively.

As previously reported, in 2015 a criminal probe was opened by the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) into a group of x-ray technicians and medical staff at Riga’s leading hospitals for requesting and accepting bribes for moving patients up in line.

Taking illegal advantage of their position, the group from Riga East Clinical University Hospital allegedly conspired to offer queue-hopping privileges to patients needing expedited magnetic-resonance imaging services (MRIs), requesting and accepting illegal cash benefits from them, said KNAB representative Laura Dūša.

Such crimes carry a possible five-year sentence of jail or community service, monetary fines and prohibitions from serving in the profession for up to five years.

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