Businessman linked to Kohtla-Järve bribery suspicions freed from detention
A court has released a businessman suspected of being involved in corruption relating to the award of local government tenders in the eastern Estonian town of Kohtla-Järve, citing a lack of grounds for his arrest.
The Prosecutor's Office had sought the arrest of Nikolai Ossipenko, who, along with nearly a dozen other suspects, is under investigation for alleged bribery activities, but the first-tier Viru County Court ruled Thursday that this request would not be granted, Ossipenko's lawyer Jüri Leppik told ERR's Russian-language portal.
The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) detained Ossipenko, a former local politician, and eight other people from the city government and council chambers, including the council chair, deputy chair and two deputy mayors, on Tuesday, as well as two business associates of Ossipenko's, on suspicion of the giving and taking of bribes and of influence peddling.
These are preliminary suspicions subject to amendment in the course of criminal proceedings, and affect politicians from at least two parties, Center and Reform, as well as from a local electoral list.
Other people detained in relation to the case were also released Thursday morning, including Kohtla-Järve city council chair Tiit Lillemets.
Around a dozen people are of interest to the PPA in the matter, including council deputy chair Maria Merkulova and two deputy mayors, Vitaly Borodin and Aljona Kazakova.
Companies Ossipenko has a stake provide services not only to Kohtla-Järve municipality but also to other local governments in Ida-Viru County.
A decade ago, Ossipenko was charged with corruption over income deemed of criminal origin being received by one of his companies, N&V, though he averted trial on health grounds that time.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte