Six defense lawyers in the trial of former Port of Tallinn (Tallinna Sadam) managers have asked for Harju County Court to remove two state prosecutors from the case, on the grounds of failing to allow them access to crucial materials, Baltic News Service reports.
The lawyers in question, namely Paul Keres, Aivar Pilv, Andrei Svists, Elmer Muna, Erki Kergandberg and Sandra-Kristin Karner have applied for state prosecutors Laura Feldmanis and Denis Tšasovskih to be removed from the trial, and have asked the court to order the prosecutor's office to appoint a new prosecutor to the case within two days of that.
The lawyers learned at a court session on October 3 last year that the accused's, Allan Kiil and Ain Kaljurand, criminal files contain data carriers not made available to any of them during pre-trial procedure. The lawyers then requested a copy of the data.
At a session twelve days later, state prosecutor Feldmanis said that a corresponding application should in this case have been filed by the defense. Harju County Court told the prosecutors that the defense has the right to acquaint itself with the relevant part of the criminal file, which thus must be presented to them.
Since the data carriers had still not been made available to the defense by October 29, the court ordered the prosecutor's office to do so within two weeks, which they again failed to do, though they did not challenge the order, according to BNS.
At a court hearing on Tuesday this week, the prosecutor's office said that it did not deem this compliance necessary, due to an application for interim legal protection having been submitted by the Port of Tallinn at Tallinn Administrative Court.
The court's response was to say its order is enforceable, and the criminal proceedings are unaffected by proceedings at the administrative court.
Defense: Prosecutors' behavior dishonest
The defense say they are convinced the prosecutors' have at the very least been dishonest, adding two prosecutors have maliciously and deliberately hindered the rapid and fair handling of the case, as well as repeatedly failing to comply with the court's ruling as noted above.
The six lawyers say the prosecutor's office concealed CDs, memory sticks and DVDs with materials relevant to the case from them, in addition to materials subpoenaed by the Internal Security Police (ISS) the prosecutor's office also had at its disposal.
The prosecutors also withheld correspondence between Port of Tallinn employees, the defense lawyers say.
Judge Kristina Väliste is likely deliver a ruling regarding the defense application next week, BNS reports.
List of charges
Based on evidence the ISS collected during a near three-year investigation, the Office of the Prosecutor General has charged the ex-managers of accepting bribes on a massive scale, as well as money laundering activities, over the period 2005 to 2015. Port of Tallinn was not a publicly-listed company at that time, becoming so in 2018.
A third party, former head of the company's service department, Martin Paide, is also charged with bribe-taking, and seven more physical, and two legal, persons are charged with giving a bribe and complicity in bribe-giving.
Charges have also been filed against Eno Saar, Tõnis Pohla, Üllar Raad, Sven Honga, Toivo Promm, Valdo Õunap and Jan Paszkowski, as well as two companies: HTG Invest AS and Keskkonnahoolduse OU.
All the defendants except Õunap pleaded not guilty.
Chief State Prosecutor: Defense may yet not get to see materials in their entirety, prosecutors acted professionally
Chief state prosecutor Taavi Pern told BNS that the administrative court has yet to deliver a ruling on the granting of interim legal protection, meaning it cannot be ruled out that it will impose restrictions on making the materials in question available to the defense in future.
"If the administrative court does not impose any such restrictions, we'll be able to fulfill the county court's order. In my opinion, the prosecutors in this criminal case have been professional and impartial; however, their removal will be decided by the court," he said, according to BNS.
At the end of last May, the court delivered its first decision in the trial by agreeing to settle Valdo Õunap's case with a plea deal, handing him a conditional jail sentence of two years and six months.
Kiil and Kaljurand
According to the statement of charges, Allan Kiil and Ain Kaljurand consented to accept bribes from several businesses to ensure the smooth dealings between the companies and the Port of Tallinn, acting both together and separately, to accept bribes totaling almost €4million, over the course of ten years.
The €3 million of this was a bribe promised to Kiil by representatives of Turkish and Polish shipbuilding companies to get contracts with Port of Tallinn subsidiary TS Laevad.
Kiil and Kaljurand were arrested on August 26, 2015, but released at the beginning of 2016.
Paide is charged with being willing to accept a bribe of over €40,000 euros, Kaljurand of approximately €400,000 euros and Kiil of €3.5 million. Whereas the whole sums reached Paide and Kaljurand, Kiil had "only" received €2 million before his arrest, it is reported.
Editor: Andrew Whyte