Court fines former mayor for vote-buying

  • 2006-05-24
  • From wire reports
RIGA - The Latgale Regional Court convicted former Rezekne City Mayor Juris Zacests and levied a 3,600 lat (5,100 euro) fine on May 17 for vote-buying. The punishment is equal to 40 minimum monthly wages. Zacests was found guilty of buying votes from residents in the eastern Latvian town of Rezekne, during the 2005 municipal elections. The former mayor was accompanied by two co-defendant, Grigorijs Bekasovs, who was sentenced to 200 hours of community service, and Olga Skutane, who received 160 hours of community service. Prosecutor Peteris Rutkovskis had initially demanded a 4,500 lat fine for the former Rezekne mayor.

On June 1, the court will release the full text of its judgement, after which Zacests will have 10 days to file an appeal.
"There is no doubt about it 's I'm definitely going to file an appeal. I might have the money to pay the fine, but this is not about money. I'm innocent," he told the Baltic News Service, adding that statements by witnesses had been contradictory.
According to Zacests, when accused of speaking to voters and offering them bribes, he had been in a completely different location. The case, he stated, was a fabrication concocted against him for political reasons.

Zacests earlier told BNS that he had been charged for offering voters some 60 lats. During his defense the former mayor explained that he had, indeed, distributed a total of 60 lats to people in financial trouble, but this had nothing to do with the upcoming municipal elections. "I only left a couple of party programs and booklets with them, and asked them to do some canvassing," he said. Under Latvian law, vote-buying can earn an individual up to three years in prison or a fine of up to 60 minimum monthly wages.