Lembergs: Prosecutors obstructed the examination of witnesses, court removed important questions

At the third court hearing, which the court has given to Aivars Lembergs for the last word, he analyzed the episodes in which prosecutors obstructed and hindered the defense in examining witnesses during the 12-year trial. Prosecutors were also supported by the court, as at their request the court removed (i.e. rejected) questions relevant to the defense that were directly related to the accusation.
11.02.2021. Uldis Dreiblats, Ritums Rozenbergs
SUPPORTERS ARE ACTIVE. Supporters of Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs express their opinion despite the pandemic and the freezing weather ©Facebook

The court hearing of the last word's third day was delayed by half an hour - as explained by the chairperson of the court composition Irīna Jansone, due to the online connection of the information system.

Supporters: "We're on your side!"

Meanwhile, a picket in support of A. Lembergs took place at the Ventspils Courthouse, from which A. Lembergs participates online in the Riga Regional Court proceedings.

Not far from the entrance to the courthouse there were posters "Stop the political retaliation against the government's opposition!", "Did you catch the mis - manager Meroni?" "Bordāns, envy destroys health", "Lembergs, we are on your side", etc.

On the fence of the courthouse several red hats had been placed, the kind that were sometimes worn by A. Lembergs.

The court offered to compensate for the half-hour delay with a half-hour shorter lunchtime or a half-hour longer hearing. A. Lembergs refused the offer, referring to the right to private life specified in the Criminal Procedure Law also for the persons involved in the criminal proceedings, and pointing out that his free time has already been scheduled. A. Lembergs revealed to the court that his youngest son is turning five years old and the family has already planned events to celebrate the birthday after the court hearing.

Prosecutors are obstructing the defense

Continuing the analysis of cases started earlier, when prosecutors and the court intervened in the work of the defense, A. Lembergs mentioned the court hearing of 15 August 2011, at which A. Lembergs' lawyer Raimonds Krastiņš questioned Gints Laiviņš-Laivenieks, a witness who gave incriminating evidence during the pre-trial investigation and A. Lembergs' lawyer. Quoting what happened in the courtroom, A. Lembergs drew the court's attention to the behavior of prosecutors Aivis Zalužinskis and Juris Juriss: "It can be seen that the prosecutor Juriss essentially consulted the witness, in fact performing the functions of a defense counsel. The prosecutor defends Gints Laiviņš-Laivenieks and in our opinion this is not acceptable. Prosecutors rudely interfered in the work of the defense in order not to allow Raimonds Krastiņš to ask questions important for the defense.”

A.Lembergs reminded the court that in addition to the prosecutors' efforts to prevent asking questions important for the defense, there is another aspect to the incident - delaying the court proceedings: "The prosecutor interferes with the interrogation, does not allow the witness to answer, answers in the place of the witness. This is a discussion. The discussion is time-consuming. In the present case, the defense lost 15 minutes to ask questions because the prosecutors did not allow the lawyer to question the witness and examine the evidence in court.”

A.Lembergs also mentioned many other court hearings in which a similar interference with the defense work took place - where the prosecutor did not allow the lawyer to ask questions, but instead the prosecutor and the judge instructed the witness on how to answer.

A.Lembergs concluded that "the gross interference of prosecutors in the exercise of defense functions in the court of first instance can no longer be prevented."

He also analyzed the actions of the prosecutor and the court during the examination of the former prosecutor Valentīns Kokalis: "The indictment says that a bribe has been extorted and some sort of threats have been expressed, but my lawyer is not allowed to ask and find out. Is the content of the threats not relevant to the case, to the indictment? This is an absolutely crucial issue! How can I defend myself if a court inquiry is prohibited? Maybe the judge already understands everything?”

Similarly analyzing the interrogation of R. Meroni, A. Lembergs drew the court's attention to the way in which the prosecutors and the court, claiming that it did not apply to the criminal case, did not allow to ask questions about the seized property, nor about the allegations of R. Meroni, his role in financial intermediation and from whom he has received the authorization.

A vivid example

The passage mentioned from the hearing on 15 August 2011 is a very vivid (though not the only) example of the above. At this court hearing, Raimonds Krastiņš, the lawyer of A. Lembergs, tried to question Gints Laiviņš-Laivenieks, another lawyer of A. Lembergs appointed as a witness, who was probably the chief lawyer and legal adviser of A. Lembergs until about 2006.

It would be pointless to point out that it is forbidden to question lawyers about facts that have come to their knowledge during the provision of legal aid in connection with the so-called Lembergs case - many laws are not enforced in this criminal proceeding. Among other things, this norm of the Advocacy Law is not enforced:

"A sworn advocate may not divulge the secrets of his or her authorising person not only while conducting the case, but also after being relieved from the conducting of the case or after the completion of the case."

In 2007, criminal proceedings against G. Laiviņš-Laivenieks were separated from the so-called Lembergs case; he has the status of a suspect. Nevertheless, prosecutors without objection allow G. Laiviņš-Laivenieks to be the deputy of Rudolfs Meroni in all large companies of the Port of Ventspils, of course, receiving a salary corresponding to the status of this deputy. The database Firmas.lv shows that G. Laiviņš-Laivenieks is the Deputy of the Chairman of the Council R. Meroni in JSC Ventbunkers, JSC Ventspils tirdzniecības osta, JSC Kālija parks, as well as holds other positions.

The case of G. Laiviņš-Laivenieks is an undisguised and vivid example, how the principle of "stick and carrot" is used against witnesses in the so-called Lembergs case.

Respectively, G. Laiviņš-Laivenieks answered the questions of the prosecutors in detail in the court proceedings, but avoided answering the questions asked by the defense by all means.

The fragment also illustrates how the principle of equality is ignored in the so-called Lembergs case.

Aivars Lembergs' lawyer Gints Laiviņš-Laivenieks, who is questioned as a witness in the criminal proceedings: Well, I have testified about these circumstances, how my connection with Kaywood has developed over time, I have nothing else to add.

Raimonds Krastiņš, Advocate of Aivars Lembergs: The next question - say, could you tell what kind of activities, services, help as a trustee, as a lawyer or in another status, you did in connection with the company Kaywood International from April 97, that is, when do you had the first power of attorney, until the fall of 97, when there was such a big change going on? Well, if you know.

G.Laiviņš-Laivenieks: I have already testified about this in the process. These were probably its few representations in separate meetings. I have testified about this, I have nothing more to say.

R.Krastiņš: Well, alright! Well, forgive me, then I will ask you differently. Please tell me, when did you first see a document that stated that Aivars Lembergs is a shareholder or the true beneficiary, or a final beneficiary or an alternative beneficiary of Kaywood International? When did you see for yourself?

Prosecutor Aivis Zalužinskis: Honorable court, the state prosecution objects to asking such a practically formal question. The witness just replied that he had already testified on the subject. For half an hour now, we have been listening to the same things about Kaywood, about Kaywood, about which the witness says he has testified or will testify. Well, how long has it been? Today we can keep doing it for a long time! And in addition, the fact that the state prosecution has questioned today for the second time, is now being questioned again about Kaywood.

R.Krastiņš: Right!

Judge Boriss Geimans: Yes, we agree with the prosecutor. This question has been removed. Next question, please!

R.Krastiņš: Well, alright! Let me not be an enemy of the "class" then. I have about 200 questions about Kaywood. Everyone can answer in this way to any of them. Then...

B.Geimans: But if a witness has already testified on earlier questions, right. I do not think it is worth asking these questions again then.

R.Krastiņš: Did he really give such testimony?

B.Geimans: If you have any other questions related to Kaywood International, please, but if he...

R.Krastiņš: Was there really such a question?

B.Geimans: Excuse me?

R.Krastiņš: Can the prosecutor really say when such a question was asked? If there is such an objection.

Prosecutor Juris Juriss: Honorable court, the essence of our objection is that if a person exercises the right not to testify against himself, if he says that he has nothing more to say on the subject than what he has said, then in any case if the same uniform questions are asked here, it can be assessed and treated only as coercion of a witness, that is, forcing him to violate his procedural rights. Well, that situation is not acceptable!

B.Geimans: Well!

J.Juriss: How many times then does a witness have to say that he will not testify to a particular circumstance?! 5, or 7, or 10?! When is it enough?!

B.Geimans: Understood!

J.Juriss: Thank you!

Anrijs Lembergs' lawyer Oskars Rode: Honorable court, I would like to support my colleague Raimonds Krastiņš in connection with the fact that, honorable court, it is the witness's subjective opinion that he is a witness on this issue. Raimonds Krastiņš correctly asked the question - has anyone asked such a question to a witness in this form? Honorable court, if a witness does not want to testify, well, in fact he does not want to testify, he quite rarely today uses the phrase that he does not want to testify because it can be used against him. He uses the phrase "I have already said that". Honorable court, he has testified about some facts, but which may seem insufficient to the defense, and therefore the defense asks clarifying questions. Consequently, if a witness does not wish to answer, is that a reason to prevent the lawyer from asking questions? I think not! And I, honorable court, think that my colleague Raimonds Krastiņš has the full right to ask the questions that are necessary to realize the defense in full. Thank you!

B.Geimans: Right! What about you?

Jānis Rozenbergs, lawyer of Ansis Sormulis: I, lawyer Rozenbergs, also agree with my colleague Oskars Rode. Prosecutors completely unfoundedly claim that the witness Laiviņš-Laivenieks has already testified about it or is exercising his rights - he is not testifying against himself. In my opinion, the answer to the last dozen questions was mostly that "I am not aware of such facts". For example, in my opinion, a very important question is whether the witness knows whether Aivars Lembergs has gained any real benefit from the company Kaywood. The witness confirms - I am not aware of this fact. This is a question and it is a normal answer, and that answer and question are relevant to the case. Consequently, I consider that the prosecutors, with their objections, seek to disrupt the order of the hearing, for which I ask them to be reprimanded, and for repeated disruptions of the hearing, please discuss the application of Section 296 and expel prosecutors from the courtroom so that they do not interfere with Raimonds Krastiņš's questions to which the witness has given normal answers. Thank you!

B.Geimans: Right, Mr. Alliks!

Anrijs Lembergs' lawyer Aldis Alliks: Yes, honorable court, I just wanted to add to my colleagues such an aspect that, in my opinion, the public prosecutors also repeatedly asked questions, well, about the same topic that the witness had already said he would not testify. It is also important not only for Raimonds Krastiņš, but also for the defense in general, but these questions are recorded in the minutes. I also remember that at that time, the public prosecutors formulated such a justification for asking these questions. Well, Mr. Krastiņš, he asked or did not ask, it is important in each case that this question is sounded, it is recorded in the minutes, and then we see in each case what the witness's response was and then we can compare how the witness has acted - has or has not exercised any of his rights in response to questions from either party. Therefore, I think it is very important from the point of view of defense, no matter how far we can measure it in some tens or hundreds, the answer, whether the answer will be identical or not, but when the questions are asked and recorded. Thank you!

B.Geimans: Right! That will be all, thank you! It was not a request, right. We listened to the lawyers. So, what about you?

A.Zalužinskis: Honorable court, however, we want to bring to your attention one thing before you make your final decision. In our view, from the outset in relation to Kaywood International Ltd, a witness said that in this part about the company, which also affected his accusation in another proceeding, he said that he did not want to testify about it at all. But given that the court's view was that, well, each question has to be assessed separately, etc., now the witness has been taken to the point where he is already tired of it here, we are so tired of answering every question in its, say, the true narrative that he does not want to give testimony at the moment so that it is not used against him, etc., he is already answering something purely formally at the moment. And the lawyer, of course, uses it! He so continues to ask and ask, and ask. And, in fact, his /witness'/ right has already been violated at the moment. Because he is practically forced to testify right now. And that, in our view, is unacceptable. And we believe that, in fact, all this evidence will no longer be usable, which he has now given, even if he formally answers. That is our view.

R.Krastiņš: Dear court, in short! The Criminal Procedure Law provides for equal rights to defense and the prosecution. If necessary, if necessary, I have absolutely all the testimony of Mr. Laiviņš in this court proceeding, testified at the court hearing, I could show absolutely that it is not true. Prosecutors asked a lot of questions, a lot, many were answered and prosecutors' questions are very repetitive. Let's say there are 10 questions about the beneficiary, and there are 12 if we count how many more times we have been asked to confirm previous testimonies. /Non-respect of/ equality, as I emphasized first.

A.Lembergs: Honorable court, may I?

B.Geimans: Right, a five-minute break!