Selver to take vodka cartel case back to Estonia's top court
The Estonian supermarket chain Selver, a subsidiary of the listed Estonian retailer Tallinna Kaubamaja Grupp, will be appealing to the Supreme Court of Estonia Thursday's decision by the Tallinn Circuit Court which left unchanged the April 2015 ruling of the first-tier Harju County Court that found Selver, alcoholic beverage producer Liviko and several other large supermarket chains guilty of forming a cartel.
"Throughout the proceeding, Selver AS has deemed the charges of the Prosecutor's Office to be unfounded and incomprehensible as Selver AS has never concluded any price agreements with their competitors," the company said in a release to the stock exchange. "Selver AS is still convinced that they have not broken the law and will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court."
The second-tier court concluded that the lower court's decision was lawful, consistent with collected evidence and thoroughly reasoned and that there were no grounds upon which to revoke it.
On Jan. 20, 2016, the Tallinn Circuit Court partly repealed the county court's April 29, 2015 guilty verdict for five companies and nine persons as well as terminated the proceeding on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired. The county court's decision to acquit two defendants remained unchanged and the prosecutor's appeal was turned down.
Charges had been brought against Liviko, retail chains Selver, Rimi Eesti Food, Maxima Eesti and Prisma Peremarket as well as a total of 11 representatives of said companies.
According to the charge sheet, in 2009 the defendants entered into a competition-harming agreement to raise the retail price of vodkas with 40 percent alcohol content from the lower price bracket to at least 63.50 Estonian crowns, or 4.06 euros, for a standard half-liter bottle.
The Supreme Court in turn overturned the circuit court's ruling on June 20, returning the case to the second-tier court for retrial with a new panel of judges. Contrary to the circuit court, the country's top court found that the first-tier county court had prosecuted the accused parties in the correct manner and that the case had not expired.