Trial halted as witness is too ill to attend court

editorial image

The trial of a Latvian lorry driver accused of stealing a near £100,000 cargo of Scotch whisky has been abandoned after a key defence witness became ill.

Maris Bukovskis picked up the load from the William Grant depot in Bellshill, but it never reached its destination, Riga, the Latvian capital.

He claimed his boss ordered him to transfer the trailer to another lorry driver in France while he was despatched to another job in Bordeaux.

The whisky was never seen again and the company who employed him apparently no longer exist.

The 53-year-old, who denies theft, has been in custody since Scottish detectives flew to Germany to arrest him on January 4 this year.

His trial went ahead at Hamilton Sheriff Court, but was halted with evidence almost complete when it became clear the defence witness was in no state to attend court.

The witness had flown from Latvia to London, but failed to make a connecting flight to Edinburgh. Inquiries were made and it emerged he had taken ill and was in hospital in London.

Bukovskis has been remanded in custody to await a fresh trial in October.

The court heard he had been employed by a company in Latvia called Mansantrans. The job to pick up whisky from Lanarkshire in February last year was only his second for the firm.

When the customer tried to find out why his consignment of whisky hadn’t arrived on schedule, he was unable to contact anyone from Mansantrans which, as defence agent Andy Thomson observed, had “simply disappeared”.

Detective Constable Graham McAdam told the court a document linking Bukovskis to the job was found in his possession when he was searched at Motherwell police station.

However, Bukovskis claimed he had held on to that because he was still seeking payment for his work.

Mr Thomson suggested that if he’d been involved in the theft he would have gone into hiding yet he had been easy to track down and held documents which confirmed his identity.

Bukovskis said: “I had no choice but to carry on working. I had no reason to hide.”