RIGA - Latvia's Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a Finnish citizen for sex trafficking and pimping, the Baltic News Service reported on Nov. 24.
The full text of the verdict will be available on Jan. 7. The defendant, Juha Erki Isohatala, then has 10 days to appeal the ruling, the court said.
A Riga regional court sentenced Isohatala to eight years in jail, along with a confiscation of property. After he serves his jail term, Isohatala will be expelled from Latvia.
The court also sentenced Isohatala's co-defendant, Latvian citizen Baiba Garanca, to time in jail for sex trafficking and pimping. Garanca will serve three years in prison.
Co-defendant Andzhelika Kolosova, an Estonian citizen, received a three-year suspended prison term with one year of probation. She will be deported from Latvia after her sentence is served.
Isohatala and Garanca have appealed their verdict before the Supreme Court, spurring the Prosecutor's Office to file an appellate protest.
Isohatala was accused of 19 counts of sex trafficking and one count of pimping. The Finnish citizen has a pending criminal case against him in Estonia for pimping.
During the hearing in Riga, Latvian Prosecutor Maris Urbans asked the court to sentence Isohatala to 12 years in jail, Garanca to five years and Kolosova to a three-year suspended sentence.
The Finnish-Latvian-Estonian trio had been operating their illegal sex business from December 2001 to the end of last year, when the group was detained by the Latvian police.
Isohatala was the group's organizer and the other two were responsible for recruiting women for prostitution in Finland and Estonia.
Victims reported that they had received 1,500-2,000 euros per day for sex, but were only allowed to keep 15 percent.
Isohatala plead guilty for sending women for prostitution, and plead not guilty for operating in a group. Garanca plead not guilty on both accounts.
The Finnish citizen's lawyer, Saulvedis Varpins, told the press that his client was shocked about the tough punishment under the Latvian laws. In Finland his crime would have fetched a much more lenient sentence.
Isohatala said if he had known that Latvian laws were so harsh, he would have never come here, Varpins said.