Atko Bussiliinid, a bus operator owned by the Sarapuu family that operates regional buses in Valga county under a public passenger service contract, has its buses fill up in neighboring Latvia to benefit from the lower fuel taxes there, daily Postimees' edition for South Estonia reported on Wednesday.
"Filling up in Latvia saves the Valga branch of Atko Bussiliinid, a holding of the Sarapuu political family, a pretty penny," Postimees wrote.
It said that the 30 buses of the Valga operation of Atko Bussiliinid fill up in the neighboring Latvian town of Valka and the excise duty paid on the fuel goes to bolster the state budget of Latvia.
The manager of the Valga operation of Atko Bussiliinid, Toomas Turgan, said that where earlier they used to buy fuel for their buses at the Alexela filling station in Valga, they have since switched to the Latvijas Nafta station located near the Alko1000 store on the Latvian side of the border as a closer option, among other things.
Atko's public passenger service contract to operate regional buses of Valga county runs until the end of this year. In 2017, the company was paid a subsidy of €784,200 for 1.17 million kilometers of passenger bus service and the amount to be paid to it in the first half of this year is approximately €414,000.
The paper pointed out that none of the two other major operators of regional bus services in South Estonia are buying fuel in Latvia on a comparable scale.
Kersti Sarapuu is chair of the ruling Center Party's parliamentary group in the Riigikogu. Her husband Arvo Sarapuu, a former deputy mayor of Tallinn, is under investigation for alleged corruption offenses.
Editor: Dario Cavegn