A multi-million-euro corruption case involving former managers at Tallinn's municipal public transport firm is to go to court next month. The accused allegedly took around €2 million between them in bribes, using the proceeds for items such as real estate, cars and other luxuries, while law enforcement officials have used the case to argue for more transparency and a wider circle of individuals involved in significant deals.
Several individuals who worked at Tallinna Linnatranspordi AS (TLT) are suspected of taking bribes and using inside information in second-hand bus, spare parts and maintenance procurement including Andres Herkel, Hannes Erbsen and Jaanus Vink, over the period 2012-2018, with the second-hand bus procurement component being most significant.
Lead prosecutor Leelet Kivioja said: "According to the charge sheet, Vink brokered an advantage for certain companies in the procurement of used buses as well as repair services and goods."
"In particular, having in his position a detailed overview of necessary spare parts, painting work, and TLT's needs for procurement of used buses and other equipment, the notices of which were still to be published, he sought out, before the publication of the tender notice, suitable used vehicles and arranged for the orders of spare parts to go to specific companies before drawing up the tender specifications and publishing the tender notice," Kivioja continued, according to BNS.
The total proceeds of the bribery are estimated at at least €2 million.
"During the extensive investigation, a large number of materials was gone through, which revealed a long-standing and well-planned corrupt practice. The procedure revealed the degree of deficiency of paperwork that facilitated the conduct of large-scale procurement fraud for many years," Kivioja added, noting an opacity in TLT's activities obscured the extent of the alleged corruption.
"The absence of internal controls at the company more generally made it difficult to establish the extent of the corrupt practices and the extent of the subsequent damage caused to the company," the prosecutor said.
A large volume of properties in Tallinn and environs belonging to the suspects, along with cars, motorcycles, boats, jewelry and other items have been seized, according to BNS.
TLT has also filed a civil lawsuit for €1.4 million in damages.
The North District Prosecutor's Office has sent the case to court, with the preliminary hearing due on June 21.
All three of the main defendants are charged with bribe taking, while Tarmo Sillajõe, a former TLT employee, is charged with facilitating the bribery. Three other individuals and their companies also stand charged with offering the bribes.
By way of lessons learned, Ats Kübarsepp, head of the bureau for the investigation of corruption crimes at the Central Criminal Police, said that in order to avoid the risk of corruption in institutions and companies, measures must be taken which do not allow important processes to be directed by a narrow circle of persons.
In total, charges have been filed against seven physical persons and four legal entities, BNS reports.
Kaspar Keelmann, head of one of the companies allegedly involved, is charged with bribery in kind, i.e. with the use of the firm's resources and services, together with the consent of two other members of the management board and the shareholders, including through a company belonging to Jaanus Vink, BNS reports.
The investigation is being led by the North District Prosecutor's Office, as per standard practice in Estonia, and conducted by the bureau for the investigation of corruption crimes at the Central Criminal Police.
Editor: Andrew Whyte