The Tallinn-based Harju County Court hearing the case of former Port of Tallinn managers on Wednesday dismissed an application from lawyers for the defense to remove state prosecutors Laura Feldmanis and Denis Tsasovskih from the case.
With the ruling adopted on Wednesday, the court dismissed the request for removal of the prosecutors lodged by attorneys Paul Keres, Aivar Pilv, Andrei Svists, Elmer Muna, Erki Kergandberg and Sandra-Kristin Karner.
According to the application, the attorneys learned at a court session on October 3 that the criminal file of the accused contains data carriers that had not been made available to any of the defense lawyers during pre-trial procedure, and requested a copy of the data.
At a session on October 15, Feldmanis said that a corresponding application should in this case have been filed by the defense. At the same session, the court told the prosecutors that the defense has the right to acquaint itself with the said part of the criminal file and it must be presented to them.
As the data carriers had not been made available to the defense by October 29, the court ordered the prosecutor's office to do so within two weeks, which the prosecutors neither challenged nor complied with.
At a session on February 4, the prosecutor's office said that it did not deem compliance with the county court's ruling possible due to an application for interim legal protection having been submitted by AS Tallinna Sadam (Port of Tallinn).
The court at the same session said that the county court's order is enforceable and the criminal proceedings are unaffected by the proceedings at the administrative court.
The defense are convinced the behavior of the prosecutors has at the very least been dishonest and that they have maliciously and deliberately hindered the fast and fair handling of the case as well as repeatedly failed to comply with the court's ruling.
According to the application by the defense, the prosecutor's office until trial concealed from the defense the fact that in addition to the materials subpoenaed by the Security Police, the prosecutor's office also had in its disposal CDs, memory sticks and DVDs with materials relevant to the case as well as correspondence between Port of Tallinn employees.
Chief state prosecutor Taavi Pern told BNS last week that the administrative court has yet to deliver a ruling on the granting of interim legal protection, and it cannot be ruled out that it will impose restrictions on making the materials in question available to the defense.
"If the administrative court does not impose any such restrictions, we'll be able to fulfill the county court's order. In my opinion, prosecutors in this criminal case have been professional and impartial; however, their removal will be decided by the court," he said.
Based on evidence collected by the Internal Security Service over the course of an investigation that lasted for approximately three years, the Office of the Prosecutor General is accusing the ex-managers of the now-listed port company of accepting bribes on a large scale and money laundering committed from 2005 to 2015.
A third person, former head of Port of Tallinn's service department Martin Paide, is also accused of bribe-taking, and seven more physical and two legal persons of giving a bribe and complicity in bribe-giving.
Charges have also been filed against Eno Saar, Tõnis Pohla, Üllar Raad, Sven Honga, Toivo Promm, and Jan Paszkowski, as well as the companies HTG Invest AS and Keskkonnahoolduse OU.
The case of one more person charged, Valdo Õunap, has been solved by agreement procedure.
At the end of May, the court delivered the first decision in the trial by agreeing to settle Õunap's case by compromise and handing him a conditional jail sentence of two years and six months.
According to the statement of charges, Kiil and Kaljurand agreed to accept bribes from several businesses in return for these businesses' contractual relations with Tallinna Sadam being as smooth as possible.
Over the course of ten years, Kiil and Kaljurand agreed, acting together as well as separately, to accept bribes in the total amount of almost four million euros.
The biggest portion of it, approximately three million euros, is a bribe promised to Kiil by representatives of Turkish and Polish shipbuilding companies for being awarded contracts to build ferries for the Port of Tallinn subsidiary TS Laevad.
According to the charges, Paide was ready to accept a bribe of more than €40,000, Kaljurand of approximately €400,000 and Kiil of €3.5 million. Whereas the whole promised bribe reached Paide and Kaljurand, Kiil only had time to receive approximately two million euros before his arrest.
Kiil and Kaljurand were arrested on August 26, 2015, but released at the beginning of 2016.
All the defendants have pleaded not guilty.
The criminal case was investigated by the Internal Security Service and the investigation was led by the Office of the Prosecutor General.
Editor: Helen Wright