The pendulum in the long-running land swap case swung back to the prosecutor's side today as the Tallinn District Court overturned the acquittal of a well-known former politician and six others on bribery charges.
Onetime People's Union leader and former Environment Minister Villu Reiljan and his co-defendants drew suspended sentences today for a scheme in which the officials received kickbacks in exchange for, among other acts, giving businessmen inside information on which cheap rural properties under nature conservation restrictions could be traded for higher value, developable, state-owned land.
Reiljan drew a five-year, nine-month sentence, 27 months of which was counted as time served. The probation term will be four years.
Former Land Board director Kalev Kangur was found guilty of the same charge and sentenced to four and a half years, also suspended, with a five-year probation term.
Merko's major shareholder Toomas Annus and businessmen Tarmo Pedjasaar and Tullio Liblik were each sentenced to two and half years suspended with three years of probation.
Einar Vettus received two years with three years probation, and current Center Party MP Ester Tuiksoo, a former agriculture minister, received one and a half years suspended with three years probation.
Merko Construction was fined nearly 800,000 euros, and a real estate company, E.L.L. Kinnisvara, was fined 128,000 euros.
Besides the rural land scheme, which involved 13 swaps of properties worth 16 million euros, the former agriculture minister Ester Tuiksoo was accused of accepting a sweetener from Annus in exchange for favoring his company as a landlord for the Agriculture Ministry's leased premises.
Lead defense attorney Aivar Pilv said following the verdict that he plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.