Developers of the Aidu wind farm, businessmen brothers Andres and Oleg Sõnajalg, are appealing a prosecutor's office decision Monday to not launch criminal proceedings arising from a report filed by the brothers' lawyers, Baltic News Service reports.
Andres Sõnajalg said the prosecutor's office has not sufficiently analyzed the report of a criminal offense they had filed, adding that the prosecutor's office went to the media regarding the decision while keeping the document outlining the decision confidential.
"The prosecutor's office's excuse for not launching criminal proceedings was based on the fact that it is not known whether the official has made an unlawful decision knowingly or unknowingly, and finds that it is purely hypothetical in the complaint," Andres Sõnajalg, board member of Eleon Green, the company behind the proposed wind farm, said on Tuesday, according to BNS.
"First, the complaint was accompanied by evidence showing that the official was aware of what they were doing, but for this to take place, the material would have had to be processed. Second, even if we made mere assumptions, it would be up to the prosecutor's office to ascertain the facts as to whether or not a crime has taken place, rather than simply giving up," Sõnajalg continued.
Prosecutor's office decision can be appealed
BNS reported that the Office of the Prosecutor General has decided not launch criminal proceedings on Monday, though this decision can be appealed.
"We have analyzed the information presented in the criminal offense report and decided that there are no grounds for launching criminal proceedings. The decision not to launch criminal proceedings can be appealed," state prosecutor Laura Feldmanis told BNS.
The Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) had on February 10 issued an injunction to Eleon Green to remove the blades from wind turbine number 5 at Aidu, in Ida-Viru County, as they interfere with national defense advance warning systems; the prosecutor's office decision makes reference to the TTJA claims, according to BNS.
Sõnajalgs say pulling out of Estonia
On February 21, the Sõnajalgs' legal counsel filed a report of a criminal offense against the TTJA over the alleged passage of a knowingly unlawful decision (see above) signed by lawyers Erki Kergandberg and Silja Holsmer.
As reported on ERR News, that very same day the Sõnajalgs said they were to relocate all their wind farm development activities outside of Estonia.
The brothers' criminal report claimed that Kati Tamtik, head of the construction department at the TTJA, had passed a knowingly unlawful decision with regard to Eleon Green, as part of a state supervisory proceeding, causing at least €5 million in material damage to Eleon, the company says.
The lawyers argued that a document from a competent authority affirming that a wind turbine currently not in use does not undermine the work capacity of national defense systems was presented to officials of the TTJA last spring.
Clash with defense ministry
Furthermore, an analysis by an international independent expert office shows that even when working, both the two Eleon turbines that are subject to a dispute, as well as the whole Aidu farm with its 30 Eleon wind turbines, would have a several times smaller negative impact than the 33 Vestas wind turbines which had been endorsed by the Ministry of Defense, the Sõnajalgs told BNS in February.
Andres Sõnajalg added the TTJA's actions have for years rested on the premise that the wind farm, under construction since 2015, which had previously received permission without a height restriction, must all of a sudden have no impact whatsoever on the systems of national defense.
The multi-faceted clash began when in 2017 the governor of Ida-Viru County asked the rural municipality where the Aidu wind farm is located, Lüganuse, to declare the Sõnajalg's building permits, dating from the previous year, invalid.
The brothers planned to construct 30 3-MW wind turbines at the site. When the municipality refused to annul the permits, the governor took the matter to Tartu administrative court, which suspended the permit in May 2017.
Three ministries got involved, the justice ministry which pursued the matter on behalf of the Ida-Viru County governor, the defense ministry as noted, and the environment ministry.
In addition, in April 2019 the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) demanded documentation on the Aidu wind farm, with potential fines up to up to €64,000 for non-compliance possible.
In July 2019, the second-tier Tartu Circuit Court upheld the earlier 2017 decision that the permits were invalid. However, in September, the Supreme Court ruled that they were in fact valid, overruling the earlier decisions.
Several private sector wind-farm developers, including the Sõnajalgs, held a joint press conference in December, appealing for their various projects in Estonia to go ahead.
The Sõnajalgs also enlisted the help of finance minster Martin Helme (EKRE) in the struggle with the TTJA. They are seeking damages of €123.7 million for the two-and-a-half years the wind farm was inactive as a result of various conflicts with national and local authorities.
Editor: Andrew Whyte