Harju County Court acquits Porto Franco accused

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Mihhail Korb and Hillar Teder in court.
Mihhail Korb and Hillar Teder in court. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Harju County Court on Wednesday acquitted all three accused in the so-called Porto Franco trial.

Judge Aime Ivanson did not find the Prosecutor's Office's charges of influence peddling against former Center Party secretary general Mihhail Korb and businessman Hillar Teder to have merit, Eesti Ekspress reports.

The case prosecutor Taavi Pern sought an 18-month prison sentence for Teder and for the Center Party to pay a million euros into the state budget. Instead Center will get to keep Teder's donation of €120,000. The prosecution was after a conditional sentence of 18 months for Korb.

The state will also have to pay the accused's legal fees amounting to €166,000 for Teder, €50,000 for Korb and €54,000 for Center.

The decision has not entered into force and the Prosecutor's Office can appeal in circuit court.

According to the charges, as Center's secretary general at the time, Mihhail Korb used his alleged influence over Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) in the interests of Hillar Teder and the Porto Franco real estate development to give the latter an unwarranted servitude fee advantage. In exchange, Teder allegedly promised to donate up to a million euros to the Center Party. The city of Tallinn slashed Porto Franco's servitude fee from €776,580 to €301,000, while Teder donated €120,000 to Center.

The court found that not enough proof was provided to establish influence peddling.

The court's decision reads that while meetings took place to discuss the details of the servitude and it was decided to turn to the mayor for help, finding the accused guilty would have required concrete proof that Teder's donation was made in exchange for swaying Kõlvart. The unfair agreement is speculation for which there is no proof, the court found.

While Korb's legal team also filed for compensation for damages resulting from the trial, the court rejected the claim as Korb resigned from the post of Center's secretary general voluntarily as opposed to being removed.

The Porto Franco trial was separated into several parts, with charges brought against former adviser to the finance minister Kersti Kracht and Hillar Teder in 2021.

The scandal in which the midtown Tallinn Porto Franco real estate project was the focal point of allegations led to the collapse of Jüri Ratas' government in 2021. Ratas resigned when suspicions were brought in the case after having previously pledged to rid Center of its reputation of being prone to corruption.

Prosecution: We will be appealing the country court's decision

Prosecutor Taavi Pern said the state believes sufficient proof was presented, which is why the Prosecutor's Office will be appealing the case.

He added that the prosecution has addressed the shortcomings the ruling details, including why it believes Korb did have influence over Kõlvart, why Porto Franco got special treatment etc.

The article was updated to add comments from case prosecutor Taavi Pern.


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Editor: Mirjam Mäekivi, Marko Tooming, Marcus Turovski

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