RIGA - The Latvian Supreme Court Senate rejected appeals of the verdict in the bribery scandal that plagued the 2005 mayoral elections in the seaside resort town of Jurmala.
The appeals had been filed by Latvian People's Party member and former mayor of Jurmala Juris Hlevickis and BMW auto dealer Germans Miluss, who has gone into hiding. The two were convicted of attempted bribery of city council members to influence the 2005 mayoral elections.
The ruling of the Supreme Court will not be contested and the verdict has taken effect. Authorities will seize Miluss' property in Jurmala and elsewhere, which the businessman had given to his wife to avoid confiscation.
Uldis Cakars, the lawyer for Hlevickis, told the Baltic News Service that as the current verdict stands, he is considering applying to the European Court of Human Rights.
Cakars reiterated that the Latvian court did not analyze the statements of defendant Gvido Harijs Volburgs on Latvian public television, stating that there were false charges made against Hlevickis.
Inese Aizstrauta, a Jurmala lawmaker who was a witness on the case, said that the scandalous bribery raised public concerns over city decision-making. "Council decisions are taken in a closed fashion, arousing suspicion and concerning personal interests," she said.
Ilmars Ancans, a Jurmala City Council lawmaker who was offered a bribe, said that he is satisfied with the verdict of the Supreme Court Senate, saying it will be a lesson for those who base their career on bribery, as well as to people who, after facing legal difficulties, write property off to their spouses. The seized assets will become property of the state.
Ancans believes that Hlevickis was a relatively small actor in the case, although, as evidence revealed, he was one of the more active accomplices.
Ancans said he was disappointed that the prosecutor's office did not involve the founder of Latvian People's Party, Andris Skele, and Latvian Transport Minister Ainars Slesers, who were witnesses on the case.
Velta Zaluksne, the prosecutor who investigated the bribery case, said that she is satisfied with the verdict despite the fact that only one of the defendants is behind bars. Although Miluss and Leonids Lasmanis, charged in a separate case, are in hiding, the prosecutor is optimistic.
Local press reported that Miluss could be hiding in Russia or Belgium, while Lasmanis may be hiding in Russia. Miluss has been put on an international list of wanted criminals.
The Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) investigated the bribery case and is searching for the defendants.
Former mayor Hlevickis is currently in jail, where he is managing the jail library on a volunteer basis. Although he was sentenced to five years, he may be up for early release for good behavior.
The Zemgale Regional Court in March 2007 gave five-year jail terms to Hlevickis and Miluss, as well as confiscating their property. Hlevickis was detained in the courtroom, but Miluss was absent from the court hearing and has remained in hiding since.
In mid-January, the Latvian Supreme Court upheld the lower court's verdict. Lawyers representing Miluss and Hlevickis then filed an appeal with the Supreme Court Senate.
The Jurmala mayoral elections in mid-March 2005 were marred by a bribery scandal nicknamed Jurmalagate. Tipped off by Ancans, a member of the newly-elected Jurmala City Council, KNAB detained Lasmanis and Volburgs as they were handing over a 20,000-euro bribe to Ancans to ensure Hlevickis' reelection as city mayor.