The Viru County Court on Tuesday acquitted former Johvi city council chair Niina Neglason, Johvi-based health care service provider OÜ Corrigo and its manager Tiiu Sepp of corruption crimes.
The court found that Neglason had violated procedural restrictions, but not to a large extent. As a member of the council, Neglason took part in various meetings where issues related to OÜ Corrigo were discussed and also participated in a vote from which she should have stepped back from as a person related to OÜ Corrigo. However, the court did not find evidence that the violation had taken place on a large scale.
The prosecutor withdrew the main part of the bribery charge in the court dispute. With regard to the remaining charges, the court ruled that there was no evidence of unlawful granting and acceptance of an advantage.
"In order to allege an unlawful agreement, there must be sufficiently strong arguments to establish that the benefits transferred were granted in return for the exercise of official capacity and that the granting of advantages on other grounds is, in all circumstances, highly unlikely. In the present case, no evidence has been submitted to the court to prove the existence of an unfair agreement," the court said.
The court also considers it necessary to emphasize that when it comes to private law transactions between parties in day-to-day business, it is customary to make offers that differ from the general price list and to ask for a more favorable price. This is not altered by the fact that the beneficiary is an official.
"Offering the latter such an advantage becomes reprehensible and prohibited only if it is done in return for exercising their official position. Thus, in the case of the granting of an advantage to someone by Tiiu Sepp and the companies managed by her, there is no reason to assume that it is an illegal activity and the persons cannot be obliged to prove otherwise. Since legal discounts are common in economic activity, when alleging that an advantage is unlawful, it must be proven," the court said.
The prosecutor's office accuses Neglason of voting in favor of the lease of the vacant premises of the care center building at 3 Kaare Street in Jõhvi to OÜ Corrigo at a council session held in October 2017. According to the charges, she should have withdrawn from the vote because she was at the time associated with the company and carried out work capacity assessments for the Unemployment Insurance Fund under the same company on the basis of an authorization agreement.
At that time, the council rented out these premises at a rent of one euro per square meter per month, but according to the prosecutor's office, this was too low a price.
Neglason carried out work capacity assessments for Corrigo under a contract from July 2016 to January 2018, for which the company paid her a total of €83,000. Most of this amount was treated by the prosecutor's office as a bribe paid by Tiiu Sepp and Corrigo to Neglason for alleged services. According to the prosecutor's office, Neglason was given more assessments than other medical experts so that she could earn more.
According to Neglason, it was simply that other doctors were often unable to perform more assessments in addition to their main job. Neglason added that the allegation of bribery made against her is also exceptional because it concerns an alleged bribe from which all statutory taxes have been paid to the state.
Neglason is accused of expressing support as council chair in the press, committees and debates for Corrigo becoming the executor of a primary health center project to be built in Jõhvi. The lion's share of the construction of the health center is contributed to by the state, to a lesser extent by the local government and the entrepreneur. According to Neglason, Johvi made a decision to establish a health center already in 2015, but she signed a contract with Corrigo in the middle of the next year.
Editor: Katriin Eikin Sein