Viktor Uspaskich, a member of the European Parliament and founder of Lithuania's Labour Party, has been cleared of tax avoidance charges by the Lithuanian Court of Appeals which overturned a previous prison sentence imposed on the politician. He will still have to pay a fine of €6,800 for hiding income and expenses in his party's accounts.
Viktor Uspaskich
© DELFI / Mindaugas Ažušilis

Other defendants in the case, MP Vytautas Gapšys and the Labour Party's former accountant Marina Liutkevičienė, have also been cleared of fraud charges and were fined with €3,600 and €5,700, respectively, for fraudulent bookkeeping .

Judge Violeta Ražinskaitė of the Court of Appeals said that the Labour Party's books were tampered with.

"All defendants were justly sentenced for fraudulent bookkeeping. The bookkeeping was really fraudulent as large amounts of money were included into unofficial books," the judge said during on Monday.

The Court of Appeals ruled that Uspaskich, Gapšys and Liutkevičienė must be cleared of fraud, because their actions specified in the charges fell under a different article of the Criminal Code, that of attempt to avoid taxes. However, the statute of limitations on it has already expired.

Prosecutor Saulius Verseckas said after the verdict that his office will appeal the decision at the Supreme Court.

Previously, a Vilnius Court had sentenced Uspaskich to four years in prison for fraud and fraudulent bookkeeping. The ruling was challenged by both the defendant and prosecutors who sought a six-year sentence for Uspaskich.

The politician and other defendants insisted the case against them was politically motivated. The Labour Party was suspected of hiding over €7 million in income and €6.6 million in expenses between 2004 and 2006.

Seimas opposition leader Andrius Kubilius said on Monday that the opposition would try to initiate impeachment procedures against MP Gapšys.

"We will start collecting signatures to hold the Seimas' extraordinary session as we believe that it would be irresponsible to ignore such political corruption cases," Kubilius, of the Homeland Union, told journalists. "I hope the ruling parties will join our initiative."

The Labour Party case timeline

* Preliminary investigation opened on May 17, 2006.

* Suspicions brought against Vitalija Vonžutaitė, the deputy head of the Labour Party's central headquarters, treasurer Liutkevičienė and accountant Nijolė Steponavičiūtė (suspicions against her were later withdrawn).

* June 22, 2006, suspicions brought against Gapšys, executive secretary of the Labour Party.

* June 29, 2006, suspicions brought against the Labour Party.

* July 18, 2006, Uspaskich summoned to the Prosecutor General's Office. He fails to appear, so on August 25, a court orders his arrest. A European arrest warrant issued on the same day.

* September 15, 2006, Uspaskich detained in Moscow.

* September 26, 2007, Uspaskich arrested in Vilnius Airport. The following day, court puts him under house arrest.

* April 14, 2008, the case handed over to a Vilnius court.

* July 12, 2013, Vilnius court hands ruling, convicting Uspaskich, Vonžutaitė, Gapšys, Liutkevičienė and the Labour Party of fraud.

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