While a former senior district official questioned last week in the course of the corruption trial involving former Center Party chairman Edgar Savisaar claimed that his boss at the time, Mihhail Korb, had pointed out a direct link between then-Tallinn mayor Savisaar and the kiosk business of Alexander Kofkin in 2008, Korb on Tuesday denied this claim.
Korb told Harju County Court on Tuesday that when serving as Kristiine district elder in the city of Tallinn in 2008, he was informed of a competition to find an operator to open food kiosks in the city. Korb said that while he didn't know why the competition initially announced on the city district level was canceled, he believed it was because city authorities wanted to organize a competition for a contract covering the entire city.
"I wasn't particularly interested in it because it wasn't the most important thing when it comes to the work of the city district government," Korb said.
Asked if there had been any communication before the competition with the company Estkompexim Toitlustus, owned by Kofkin, Korb said that communication occurred after the competition had taken place. He had previously told investigators that it had been Estkompexim's initiative to hold the competition.
"I don't remember things that happened nine years ago so precisely," Korb told court, adding that the truth has to be somewhere in between.
Korb recalled that in the competition jury, he was represented by his then-deputy, Alexander Raide, the present Alexander Pihlo.
Asked whether he indicated to Pihlo that the competition had to be won by Kofkin's company, Korb answered no.
"That would have been illegal; it is the best offeror that has to win the competition," Korb said, adding that to his knowledge, the competition did not attract the interest of Tallinn mayor Edgar Savisaar. "As far as I know, Savisaar had no role in the kiosk competition," he added.
Korb said he was exasperated by the statement given in court by Pihlo last week to the effect that he had discused with Pihlo Savisaar's connection to the kiosk competition. Korb said that Pihlo's statement can be viewed as an act of defamation.
Asked if the relationship between Pihlo and himself was good, Korb answered in the affirmative, adding, however, that Pihlo's employment relationship ended "strangely," in connection with his coming under investigation for alleged corruption.
Korb also said that at no city government meetings, which he attended once per month in his capacity as district elder, was the subject of the kiosk competition discussed.
Korb said that he learned about the process of the kiosk competition and its outcome from the media. Asked if the subject, which attracted a lot of public interest at the time, was really never touched upon at any working meeting, Korb confirmed this to be the case. "The business-owner had to solve all things himself," he said. "I never heard about these topics via official channels."
Pihlo, who is no longer an employee of the city, said in court last week that in 2008, many people said that the competition had to have a specific winner — the company owned by businessman Alexander Kofkin. "I received that information from the then-district elder Mihhail Korb," Pihlo claimed. "That victory had to be given a legally correct form."
Asked why the city wished to prefer the kiosks of Kofkin, Pihlo said he couldn't name any advantages they had.
"As we understood it, there were personal relations behind it," Pihlo said. "By 'we' I mean myself and the district elder, and by 'relations' I mean relations between Savisaar and Kofkin. It was no secret that the mayor had a big interest in that competition and there was a specific company that had to win the competition — Kofkin's Estkompexim."
Charges against Savisaar
The Office of the Prosecutor General has charged Savisaar in using Tallinn city budgetary funds for the benefit of the Center Party and himself, i.e. embezzlement on a large-scale basis, by an official and by a group, as well as in four cases of accepting bribes, money laundering and the acceptance of prohibited large-scale donations to the Center Party. The Center Party has also been charged as a legal entity.
Charged with bribing Savisaar are businessmen Aivar Tuulberg, Alexander Kofkin, Hillar Teder and Vello Kunman. Tallinn City Council chairman Kalev Kallo has been charged with assisting in the making and accepting of bribes; former politician Villu Reiljan is charged with arranging a bribe of Savisaar. Põhja-Tallinn deputy city district elder Priit Kutser has also had to stand trial.
Harju County Court on Aug. 9 separated materials pertaining to Reiljan from the criminal case in order to pursue a plea deal with the businessman.
Editor: Aili Vahtla