RIGA - Prosecutors asked the Riga Regional Court on Jan. 28 to hand out more than eight years in prison to two judges who were found guilty of taking bribes in exchange for favorable rulings.
Judge Beatrise Talere and Judge Irena Polikarpova also face a possible confiscation of property, amounting to more than 6,000 lats (8,537 euros) in cash and some valuable pieces of gold jewelry.
Prosecutor Maris Leja also asked the court for a five year suspended sentence and confiscation of property for bailiff Raimonda Spore, wife of sworn bailiff's council head Andris Spore, for her role in the crime. Raimonds Zundurs, head of the legal bureau accused of offering the bribe, faces a three year suspended sentence and an 8,000 lat fine.
"I can understand that such punishments seem severe on the one hand, but on the other hand the legislation allows for such [a sentence]. The most important thing is not the sum of money, but the fact that the official has been bought," Leja told journalists after the hearing.
He said that the sentences were the mildest possible under criminal law, and pointed out that the judges pled "not guilty" and there are no extenuating circumstances surrounding the case.
Talere was convicted on four charges of taking bribes of between 100 - 500 lats each, for which the prosecutor has asked eight and a half years in prison and a 6,000 lat fine. She was also charged with making an illegal court decision for personal reasons.
The defendant said the gift cards and cash payments she accepted were simply meant to be money to repay old debts and gifts.
Polikarpova was found guilty of accepting one 500 lat bribe, and now faces as much as eight years in prison and the confiscation of gold jewelry. She claimed that the money found in her desk was supposed to be for a birthday party.
Leja said he requested suspended sentences for Zundurs and Spore because they pled guilty to the bribery charges. He said Spore's young daughter would suffer if her mother were sent to prison.
The prosecutor also asked for charges to be brought against Vitalijs Basins for providing false evidence during the court session. Basins had claimed that he, not Spore, was the one who delivered documents to the Vidzeme District Court during the case in question.
The two judges were arrested on Oct. 10, 2006. They spent the entire period of the investigation in detention, but were released during the litigation process.
A separate criminal case will be launched against bailiff Inese Rozite, who was also implicated in the bribery scandals. Leja said Rozite fled after being confronted with the charges, and could now be residing outside of the country.