RIGA - The Riga Regional Court sentenced former Social Democrat MP Imants Burvis to a six-year suspended jail sentence last week and ordered him to pay 2,800 lats (4,000 euros) on charges of fraud and misappropriation of funds. The court also ordered to confiscate his property.
Burvis was accused of pocketing $15,000 that the management of the Vudisons Terminals company had given to him as a donation to the Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party, where Burvis was a member at the time.
He was also charged with abuse of power, but the court acquitted him, saying that the accused hadn't gone to see the donor in the capacity of a lawmaker or during the course of any parliamentary duty.
Two of Burvis' associates, Aigars Parma and Maris Dinduns, who were co-defendants in the case, received six-year and three-year suspended sentences respectively and will also have property confiscated.
All three defendants pled not guilty, but the court ultimately believed testimony from the victim, businessman Juris Sabasovs, and ruled that the three defendants had intentionally misinterpreted the donation while actually knowing all along that Sabasovs had meant to extend financial support to the party.
The court said it did not matter how the money was actually spent since Burvis received the money in presence of the two others. Afterward all three decided what to do with the money.
After the verdict was announced, Burvis told the press that he disagreed with the court ruling and that he would appeal. "The court disregarded what [was] said about violations of the civil proceedings code during the pretrial investigation," he said.
Burvis maintains that he had understood that the money had been given to him in response to his appeal for financial support for the Wildlife Breeding Association under a regional culture education foundation, where Burvis was one of the patrons.
The association said it never saw the money.
The money subsequently changed hands during a drinking session with participation of businessman Juris Sabasovs, Burvis, his aide Parma and chairman of the Vidzeme Regional Culture Education Foundation, Dinduns.
Parma testified that he and Burvis had spent the money for trips to Brussels and Prague in connection with the wildlife association activities.
Sabasovs insisted that he gave the money to Burvis and meant it to be used for party needs.
After LSDWP leaders found out about the donation, Burvis tried to cover up his tracks, first by asking the businessman to say he had never made the donation and then requesting the wildlife association chairman to sign an antedated letter with thanks to Burvis for the nonexistent donation.