Port of Tallinn trial nowhere near culmination, 125 hearings still to come

Ain Kaljurand (right) in court.
Ain Kaljurand (right) in court. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The trial of the former heads of state-owned Port of Tallinn has been going on since May 2019, while there are another 125 scheduled sessions for presenting the defense's evidence and hearing from witnesses. Several hearings have been postponed, the court has designated replacement defenders for the accused one of whom has had his case terminated due to the limitation period.

The Port of Tallinn criminal case from 2015 landed in court four years ago. By now, the prosecution's evidence and witnesses have been heard.

Viivika Siplane, spokesperson for the Harju County Court, told ERR that 90 court sessions have been held since 2019, while scheduled sessions should take until March 28 next year to get through.

"A total of 125 sessions are yet to be held to examine the defense's evidence. "The defenders have filed a lot of written evidence requests and moved to hear from 70 witnesses. The defense is also within its right to hear from 25 witnesses the prosecution did not end up calling."

Examination of the defense's evidence has begun and the first written evidence from Ain Kaljurand's defenders received. The first defense witnesses are being questioned.

One reason the trial has dragged on is that many sessions have been postponed, with defenders and the accused taking ill, as well as the fact that defense counsels are busy with other court cases.

For this reason, the court has appointed replacement defenders for the defendants Üllar Raad, Tõnis Pohla and Ain Kaljurand. However, the defendants' contractual counsels have challenged the court's decision.

Original plan would have seen hearings concluded in June 2020

The case began in the summer of 2015 when the Internal Security Service (ISS or KAPO) arrested defendants Allan Kiil and Ain Kaljurand. According to the charges, Kiil and Kaljurand accepted major bribes as heads of the port company over a decade.

The charges hold that Kiil received the lion's share of the bribes from Turkish and Polish shipyards that ended up with contracts for Port of Tallinn subsidiary TS Laevad's new Saaremaa and Hiiumaa ferries – nearly €3 million. Ain Kaljurand is accused of accepting €400,000 in bribes and Martin Paide €40,000.

The first court decision came in May 2019 when defendant Valdo Õunap cut a deal for a two-year conditional sentence for aiding and abetting giving a bribe and money laundering.

The court terminated the case of Allan Kiil in October 2020 after the defendant took seriously ill and was unable to participate in the trial. Kiil died last June.

Weekly Eesti Ekspress wrote in December of last year that the court terminated the case of Sven Honga, charged with giving a bribe, due to the limitation period expiring. Honga was accused of giving bribes in 2007-2012.


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Editor: Karin Koppel, Marcus Turovski

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