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Paper: EVR bribery affair may be connected to trains' border crossings

A freight train crossing the Estonian-Russian border in Narva.
A freight train crossing the Estonian-Russian border in Narva. Source: (Eero Vabamägi/Postimees/Scanpix)

Estonian Railways (EVR) board member Sergei Fedorenko and E.R.S. CEO Sergei Balõbin, who were recently taken into custody as suspects in the same bribery case, were both responsible for the movement of trains across the Estonian-Russian border, daily Postimees reported.

Whether the two men's alleged offenses are directly related to the cross-border movement of trains, however, was not immediately clear.

Fedorenko's responsibilities at the state-owned EVR included train timetables as well as border crossings by trains. As EVR as an infrastructure company has neither locomotives nor wagon examiners, it outsources such capacities via procurement.

"Estonian Railways can neither offer preferential terms nor reduce tariffs, as the process of haulage is regulated by the authorities vested in the carriers by the clients," EVR development manager Toomas Uiboupin told Postimees. "When someone is preferred, the carrier can have the Estonian Competition Authority immediately investigate the matter."

As a result of procurements, services on the border are operated under a concession. "That is, both EVR Cargo and RVTest take over and hand over trains at border stations on EVR's behalf," he explained. "That's depending on which one of them the train belongs to. Participants in the procurement had to show the service price per train. They are obliged to provide the service to third parties at that price as well."

Border crossing by wagons and locomotives is regulated by intergovernmental agreements; EVR has such agreements in place with both Russian Railways and Latvian Railways. The agreements set out where exactly the cargo and the related transport agreement are handed over, as well as who is responsible for the border crossing of the train.

Uiboupin explained that at the border station in Narva, for instance, Russian Railways brings trains to the station with its own locomotives, whereas at the border in Koidula, Southeastern Estonia, EVR has to send a locomotive to the nearby Russian town of Pechory.

Criminal investigation launched

The Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS) has accused railway company E.R.S. CEO Sergei Balõbin of bribing Estonian Railways (EVR) board member Sergei Fedorenko. Both men were taken into custody on Saturday, Dec. 17.

State Prosecutor Laura Feldmanis sought permission from Harju County Court to take Fedorenko and Balõbin into custody. With the court's permission, the two men were taken into custody for an initial period of up to two months.

The ISS first arrested Fedorenko, Balõbin and another two persons suspected of aiding in giving a bribe on Friday, Dec. 16.

A criminal investigation was launched on the basis of the articles of the Penal Code addressing giving and accepting bribes.

ISS officers on Friday also conducted searches of the offices of transit terminal operator Vopak E.O.S. and its subsidiary E.R.S.

Feldmanis told ETV news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera" that no legal persons have yet been charged in this case.

The investigation will be carried out by ISS under the direction of the Office of the Prosecutor General.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS, ERR

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