In order to understand the problems, it is necessary to analyse the motives of the court judgments, – says Peteris Dzalbe, the Chair of the Department of Criminal Cases of the Supreme Court, about the public statements expressed by the Tax and Customs Police Department of the State Revenue Service stating that the court judgments and penal policy do not contribute to combating financial crime and money laundering.

The Chair of the Department of Criminal Cases emphasizes: if the investigator or his superior is not satisfied with the court judgment, he must convince the prosecutor of the submission of a protest or of non-conclusion of an agreement with the accused in a particular case, rather than passively observe and then make public statements.

Dzalbe points out that the problem of combating financial crimes and money laundering lies not only in penal policy, but also in the duration of pretrial process and proceedings and in the quality of investigations. From the moment of the commission of a criminal offense until the judgment comes into effect, it takes 6-10 or even 12 years, and the courts must reduce the penalties in accordance with law or even release persons from criminal liability and punishment, if the right to complete criminal proceedings within a reasonable period of time has not been respected. In this way, the submission of complaints against the country to the European Court of Human Rights is prevented. Dzalbe reminds that in recent years the length of the proceedings has decreased, which could not be said about the pretrial process.

In the opinion of the Chair of the Department of Criminal Cases the penalties imposed for criminal offenses against the national economy, which are not related to deprivation of liberty, may be effective if simultaneously the property of the perpetrator is affected, that is, an additional penalty is applied – confiscation of property or special confiscation of property, the type of which depends on the time of the commission of a criminal offence. "However, these measures can be applied when an attempt has been made in the pre-trial process to identify the property belonging to the perpetrator, which is concealed or disposed of, in order to seize it. Here, the investigators will have a wide and unexplored field of work," says Peteris Dzalbe.

5–6 years ago, meetings of the Supreme Court judges, prosecutors and officials of the State Revenue Service and the Finance Police were held to discuss the issues on application of laws. After the "turbulent times" in the State Revenue Service and the rotation of officials, such cooperation does not take place. "The employees of the SRS confine themselves to loud statements, but do not analyse their work, do not analyse motives of court judgments in order to understand the problems and look for constructive ways to solve them," says the Chair of the Department of Criminal Cases.

Speaking about the jurisdiction of courts, the Chair of the Department of the Supreme Court emphasizes that penalties are imposed and the policy of penalties is formed mainly by the courts of first instance, but in cases of appeal protest or complaint – also by the courts of appeal. Most criminal cases are not subject to cassation complaints and protests, therefore the Supreme Court receives only a small number of adjudicated criminal cases.

The Supreme Court may exert influence upon penal policy in two ways. The first one is by procedural means, if a cassation protest or a complaint is filed. In addition, to annul a decision of a court of appeal or a court of first instance and to refer a case for a new trial for deterioration of accused person’s procedural state, namely, the recognition of guilty and imposition of more severe punishment, the Supreme Court is allowed only if there is a cassation protest or a cassation appeal against a sentence filed by a victim. The Supreme Court cannot, on its own initiative, revoke a court’s decision in order to deteriorate the accused person’s state.

The second way is recommendations drawn up following a summary or study of case-law. In 2013, the Supreme Court, in co-operation with professor Valentija Liholaja, carried out an analysis of case-law on tax evasion and money laundering, including penalties. At present, the plan of the Division of the Case-law and Research of the Supreme Court is to carry out a study in regarding the aspects indicated in the Moneyval report on the effectiveness of the system of prevention of money laundering and terrorism financing in Latvia. The study will be launched already this year, with conclusions coming in the first half of next year.

 

Information prepared by

Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court

E-mail: rasma.zvejniece@at.gov.lv, telephone: +371 67020396, +371 2865221