Supreme Court to Hear Land Swap Appeals ({{commentsTotal}})

The Supreme Court decided today it would hear the appeals by prominent ex-politicians and businessmen in the land swap affair, a long-running court case.

In June in district court, the second tier of the three-tiered court system, onetime People's Union leader and former Environment Minister Villu Reiljan and his co-defendants drew suspended sentences for a scheme in which the officials received kickbacks in exchange for, among other acts, giving businessmen inside information on which cheap rural properties under nature conservation restrictions could be traded for higher value, developable, state-owned land.

The district court reversed lower court acquittals, meting out the following penalties. 

Reiljan drew a five-year, nine-month sentence, 27 months of which was counted as time served. The probation term will be four years.

Former Land Board director Kalev Kangur was found guilty of the same charge and sentenced to four and a half years, also suspended, with a five-year probation term.

Merko's major shareholder Toomas Annus and businessmen Tarmo Pedjasaar and Tullio Liblik were each sentenced to two and half years suspended with three years of probation.

Einar Vettus received two years with three years probation, and current Center Party MP Ester Tuiksoo, a former agriculture minister, received one and a half years suspended with three years probation.

Merko Construction was fined nearly 800,000 euros, and a real estate company, E.L.L. Kinnisvara, was fined 128,000 euros.

Besides the rural land scheme, which involved 13 swaps of properties worth 16 million euros, the former agriculture minister Ester Tuiksoo was accused of accepting a sweetener from Annus in exchange for favoring his company as a landlord for the Agriculture Ministry's leased premises.

The Supreme Court has not yet set a date for the hearing.