Seven persons charged in "Unibanka" fraud case

  • 2000-02-17
RIGA (LETA)- The prosecutor's office has drawn up indictments for seven persons charged with taking currency worth more than 1.5 million lats ($2.59 million) from Unibanka one afternoon in early September 1998. Three more persons are wanted for the robbery, said Prosecutor Elga Jonikane. The five currencies, taken early in September 1998, included $1 million DEM 193,315 and two litas.

A Unibanka teller, Indulis Sturans, the only defendant employed at the bank at the time of the robbery, has been charged with misappropriation of property. Other defendants have been charged on money laundering, forging and utilizing documents or seals.

Shortly after the theft, police watching the day's bank security video tapes could not see anything irregular, except that one man entered the bank four times and appeared to be talking to Sturans, then state top cop Juris Reksna told reporters.

"There was a very large turnover on a Friday afternoon, about a million lats," said Unibank President Andris Berzins. "Maybe Sturans took advantage of that."

Unibanka has millions of lats in transactions 24 hours a day in 48 branches, Unibank officials told reporters. When they opened, they prepared themselves against "gangs and physical attacks," from without. They said they planned to tighten internal security, they said.

"We have started replacing employees in the department and changed the security system," Berzins said. "We have cooperation from foreign companies that are experienced in bank security."

Only Sturans remains in custody while his accomplices have been released on their own recognizance. Now Sturans is to remain behind bars until the case is turned over to the court, which then could decide to modify pretrial incarceration.

The prosecutor's office charged Sturans on September 15, 1998 on misappropriation of 1,539,235 lats.

On September 16, the prosecutor's office charged Sturans' accomplice, Talis Kenins, director of the firm "Heinaste"with the same crime. Sturans' alleged accomplices were Kenins, 35, Mihails Lubinskis, 36, and Mihails Saveljevs, 35, all dealing in currency exchange operations.