Latvija in brief - 2007-11-21

  • 2007-11-21
A late night fire that broke out in a residential home in Riga on Nov. 16 resulted in the deaths of six people. The Fire and Rescue Service said the fire, which started at 11:16 p.m., was most likely caused by a discarded cigarette which fell under a bed. The fire quickly consumed the second story of the two-story building. The Fire and Rescue Service said that the victims were most probably homeless and died in their sleep from smoke inhalation. The flames destroyed a total area of 23 square meters.

Former Municipal Affairs Minister Aigars Stokenbergs and former Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks have joined together to form an NGO aimed at cleaning up Latvian politics. The organization, titled "Union for Different Politics and Law-Governed State," drew approximately 70 founding members to its inaugural meeting on Nov. 16. The board members stressed that the NGO is not a political party, but did not dismiss the possibility of becoming one in the future.  Other prominent members of the organization include former University of Latvia rector Ivars Lacis and former Hansabanka board chairwoman Ingrida Bluma.

The Prosecutor General's Office submitted a criminal case to the Riga Regional Court on Nov. 16 against Andrejs Klimovs, a Riga resident who is accused of strangling his wife and two children to death on Aug. 31, 2006. The man is also accused of large scale embezzlement, the two charges carrying sentences of up to life imprisonment and 6 - 15 years respectively. Klimovs reported the crimes to the police himself, but was deemed unfit to stand trial and transported to a mental health facility shortly after the crime. His status has now been upgraded to "partially fit," a change that prosecutors hope will be enough to convict.

The Supreme Court ruled on Nov. 20 to give jail time to two of the three defendants in the high-profile Bank Baltija criminal fraud case. Former bank supervision council head Aleksandrs Lavents was sentenced to seven years and seven months in jail as well as a five-year prohibition from commercial activity, while former bank head Talis Freimanis was sentenced to five years and six months in jail as well as a three-year prohibition from commercial activity. The court also satisfied a claim brought by state-owned energy company Latvenergo for 8 million lats (11.38 million euros). L&A bureau head Alvis Lidums, meanwhile, was acquitted.

A 23-year-old man was detained on Nov. 18 after leading police on a high-speed chase in the west coast city of Ventspils. When patrol officers attempted to pull the man over for not wearing a seatbelt, he began to dangerously swerve and weave through traffic in an apparent effort to cause a massive car crash involving the police cars. Police report that the man was repeatedly warned to pull the car over and was even threatened with firearms. The intense car chase ended when the man left the car and ran toward a nearby forest, where he was detained by police.