Two child abusers get sentences, others line up

  • 2000-10-19
  • TBT staff
RIGA - The Riga City Central District Court sentenced Andris Meinarts to 10 years in jail on Oct. 17 for 21 counts of sexually abusing minors.

Another pedophile, 50- year old Ivars S., was sentenced to 16 years in jail by Kurzeme Regional Court for the rape of two minor girls from 1997 to 2000 in Kabile, a small town in Western Latvia.

These two sentences came just after the funeral of another pedophile's victim in Latvia. Eleven-year-old Ilona was brutally raped and murdered in the central Latvian county of Mezotne on Oct. 11. Her neighbor, 21-year-old Ainars P. was charged with the crime. Ilona disappeared Oct. 9. Her body, arms and hands tied, was found two days later at an abandoned apartment in the same building. The crime shocked relatives and neighbors.

"This is an extraordinary and horrible case. The police will do everything possible for guilty persons to get their punishment," said Juris Kovalonoks, the Bauska criminal police chief.

So far this year, 200 sexual crimes against minors were registered in Latvia. Six minors were murdered, including two newborns, High Prosecutor Modris Adlers reported Oct. 17.

He said that the current Latvian criminal law stipulates more severe punishments for violence against animals than non-sexual violence against children. The maximum punishment for violence against animals is up to four years in prison, while the same crime against children is punishable with up to three years in jail.

Twenty-eight-year-old Meinarts is the second person sentenced and one of seven charged in connection with an infamous pedophilia case related to operation of the Logos Centrs model agency. The court met the prosecutor's request to sentence Meinarts to 10 years in jail, the maximum penalty under the Latvian criminal law.

Meinarts and former chief of Mrs. Latvia beauty pageant agency Ainars Eisaks, as well as an employee of the Izimeks tourism firm, Ingus Tuns, have been charged with sexual abuse of minors as customers of sexual services arranged by the Logos Centrs, and their cases have been sent to the court separately. The jail term imposed on Meinarts is twice as long as the sentence for Eisaks, who will spend only 2.5 years in jail.

Charges against four former employees of Logos Centrs - Yury Yuryev, Yury Kutirev, Deniss Khokhlov and Anatoly Rudenko - form the core of the Logos Centrs criminal case.

The issue of pedophilia is relatively new to Nordic countries as well, Sandra Veinberg, a Latvian journalist living in Sweden, told The Baltic Times.

Since Jan. 1, 1999, all kinds of children pornography have been illegal in Sweden.

"It is illegal to even keep a picture from the Internet on our computer," Veinberg said.

And every week at least one person is caught violating the law.

"They are announced to the police even by service workers who fix their computers," she said. "It shows, that the society is desperate and does not understand how to deal with this issue," she stressed.

This level of conscience in Sweden has been reached only by keeping this problem in the constant focus of the media, she said.

"For Latvia, this is tragic that the press is divided between the groupings of (former Prime Minister Andris) Skele and Ventspils."

Skele was named as a possible suspect in the Logos case. His supporters (namely Diena newspaper) claimed it was a politically inspired campaign. Conversely, the media controlled and owned by transit companies based in western Latvian port city of Ventspils, supported the accusations.

"They are too excited over political battles and everything that happens is described as a political order," Veinberg said. "In political squabbles serious crimes get hidden."

"When the pedophilia scandal started, I told my kids to be aware of 'bad uncles' - not to walk with strangers and be careful," said Lolita Kronberga, mother of 12-year old son and 10 year old daughter. However, others are not so cautious.

"In the Baltic states, the people do not want to agree that pedophilia is a serious problem. While this attitude continues, it will be the 'Klondike' for pedophiles," Veinberg said.

The infamous "pedophilia scandal" broke in Sept. 1999, when the Latvian Independent Television (LNT) news program "Nedela" (the Week) reported on the operations of the bogus modelling agency "Logos center" - a child pornography and prostitution ring. The program's initial report stated that at least two government officials had paid for the sexual services of minors. No names were mentioned.

Nevertheless, "Nedela" did disclose two names - Tuns and Eisaks. Tuns was detained on Oct. 7, 1999, and Eisaks at the end of December.

After this, the Latvian parliament formed an investigation commission to check the allegations of high-ranking officials involved in the scandal. The commission's chief, MP Janis Adamsons announced from the parliamentary tribune, that Andris Skele, Minister of Justice Valdis Birkavs and director general of the State Revenue Service Andrejs Sonciks had been mentioned by witnesses in front of the commission.

All three officials rejected the allegations and were later cleared of all accusations by the General Prosecutors Office.

On April 13, when the commission filed its final report to the Latvian Parliament, six persons possibly connected with the affair were named - including the above three.