Stiff sentences handed down in 'Digital TV' case

One of Latvia's longest-running corruption scandals finally came to a climax Friday with big fines and lengthy prison sentences handed out.

The case involved 19 defendants accused of various offenses of fraud relating to the supply and purchase of digital TV equipment as Latvia prepared to switch over from analogue to digital broadcasting.

The defendants included broadcast officials and executives, tax consultants, lawyers and others, with the highest-profile defendant probably being Jurgis Liepnieks a sometime political commentator, writer, publicist and consultant to the Saskanas political party.

Liepnieks was found guilty and ordered to pay a €72,000 fine.

Another high-profile defendant, former TV executive Andrejs Ekis was slapped with a €43,000 fine but also escaped a custodial sentence, the longest of which was a three-year term behind bars for financial adviser Harijs Krongorns.

Of the 19 defendants, five were acquitted, seven were given prison sentences of up to three years and six were hit with substantial fines for their part in the racket which is believed to have cost taxpayers millions of euros.

The case commenced in 2008 and in the ensuing seven years one defendant died and one was classed as mentally ill.

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