Circuit court fines Savisaar co-defendant €15,000, upholds other rulings ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Vello Kunman has been hit with a €15,000 fine by the Tallinn Circuit Court in the latest installment of the long-running Edgar Savisaar corruption case.
Vello Kunman has been hit with a €15,000 fine by the Tallinn Circuit Court in the latest installment of the long-running Edgar Savisaar corruption case. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

A second-tier Estonian court has partly annulled a previous ruling handed down by a first-tier county court concerning the long-running and multi-faceted Edgar Savisaar case, and has issued a new judgment on one of Savisaar's co-defendants, Vello Kunman, fining him €15,000. Savisaar is a former Tallinn mayor and co-founder of the Center Party.

Tallinn Circuit court in part annulled a January 14 Harju County Court decision to acquit Vello Kunman of all charges related to bribery, finding him partly at fault and fining him €15,000, BNS reports.

Additionally, co-defendant sitting Center MP Kalev Kallo's suspended jail sentence of one year and six months was upheld by the circuit court; Kallo allegedly facilitated a bribe.

With regard to two other co-defendants, businessmen Aivar Tuulberg and Alexander Kofkin, the earlier county court ruling (see below) was unaltered.

Defense counsel Kristi Rande told BNS that she is certain to challenge circuit court decision regarding Kallo and Kunman at the top-tier Supreme Court.

Case details in brief (source: BNS).

  • In mid-January Harju County Court hands Kalev Kallo an 18-month suspended sentence with a two-year probationary period, after being found guilty of bribe giving and taking.
  • Chief State Prosecutor Taavi Pern had sought a conviction for Kallo related to a prohibited donation to the Center Party and wanted three months' real jail time from the year-and-a-half, and an 18-month probationary period.
  • Pern sought a suspended jail sentence of 12 months for Vello Kunman for bribe-giving and a two-year jail sentence, of which three months would be actual prison time and the rest in suspended sentence, for Aivar Tuulberg.
  • The Chief State Prosecutor also wanted €80,000 cash seized from Savisaar to be fully confiscated.
  • Regarding Alexander Kofkin, Pern wanted court materials to be sent back to the county court for a new ruling.
  • Pern also wanted the defendants to pay costs, in so doing anulling the county court's position on this.
  • Kallo's defense lawyer Kristi Rande is seeking a total acquittal for her client and the state to foot the bill regarding case costs.
  • Tuulberg and Kunman's defense counsel wanted the court to dismiss the state prosecutor's appeal.

Summary

The circuit court found Kallo's guilt proven and that he must serve a suspended, or conditional, sentence of one year and six months, while Aivar Tuulberg and Vello Kunman were acquitted. The court terminated proceedings on Alexander Kofkin citing a technicality.

Details of judgments

  • Vello Kunman: Acquitted of bribe-giving. State ordered to cover the legal costs of €39,310.57.
  • Aivar Tuulberg acquitted of bribe-giving. State ordered to cover legal costs of €116,269.72.
  • Alexander Kofkin: Case terminated as limitation period had been exceeded. State ordered to cover the legal costs of €79,197.
  • €80,00 cash seized from Edgar Savisaar to be returned to Savisaar upon the entry into force of the court judgment.
  • Circuit court also ordered the state to pay Savisaar the legal costs of €3,237.
  • Defense attorneys for all defendants had affirmed during litigation, which ended in October 2019 that charges the prosecutor's office charges have not been proven and the defendants have not committed the crimes they were charge with.
  • Kalev Kallo, Aivar Tuulberg, Alexander Kofkin and Vello Kunman also used their right of final rebuttal, and reiterated that they have not committed the acts they were charged with.

Case background going back to 2017

On June 18 of last year, businessman Hillar Teder admitted in Harju County Court that he had covertly financed the Center Party in 2014, but was released from trial on the grounds of expediency.

The court acceded to an application by the prosecutor's office, reversing the above decision and ordering Teder to make a penalty payment of €200,000 to the state.

Also on June 18, the court hived off the materials of the criminal case of the Center Party itself, which was standing as a defendant as a legal person, from the popularly named Savisaar criminal case. This was because the Center Party stated a desire to enter into a plea deal with the Office of the Prosecutor General; the party was subsequently fined €25,000 pursuant to this. 

Savisaar was released from trial on corruption charges after a long on-off trial going back to summer 2017 at the county court - where he and his co-defendants pleaded not guilty - on health grounds; in short he was declared not fit to stand trial – the case had bounced all the way up all three tiers of the court system in Estonia, reaching the Supreme Court.

Savisaar was charged with accepting bribes, money laundering, embezzlement on a major scale, and accepting a prohibited donation on behalf of the Center Party. The Office of the Prosecutor General had brought the charge, as it did for Aivar Tuulberg, Alexander Kofkin, Vello Kunman, Kalev Kallo and also former politician Villu Reiljan, and former city bureacrat Priit Kuster (whose proceedings were wound up on a technicality).

Villu Reiljan, former minister of environment, did pleaded guilty and following a plea deal had to pay €33,000 to state coffers.

Estonia's court system is ordered in three levels, starting with the county and administrative courts, followed by the circuit courts and with the Supreme Court naturally at the top.

Edgar Savisaar was mayor of Tallinn 2007-2015 was the first prime minister of Estonia following the restoration of independence in 1991.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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