Former mayor to get defence costs, says three prosecutors couldn't beat him

Edgar Savisaar showed up for the final Tallinn City Council meeting of the year, which was also attended by Santa Claus. 13 December 2018.
Edgar Savisaar showed up for the final Tallinn City Council meeting of the year, which was also attended by Santa Claus. 13 December 2018. Source: Dmitri Kulikov/ERR

Former Tallinn mayor and co-founder of the Centre Party Edgar Savisaar is likely to receive both legal costs and have frozen funds returned to him, following his acquittal by the Estonian Supreme Court on Friday.

Savisaar, 68, saw criminal proceedings against him overturned by the Supreme Court on Friday, overruling a decision by the Circuit Court in August which declared he could stand trial. This continued a pattern beginning with the original decision in June that the former mayor was unfit to stand trial on corruption charges at the Harju County Court, due to serious health issues.

The Estonian court system is organised on three tiers; in ascending order, the County Court, followed by the Circuit and Supreme Courts. Additionally, the Office of the Prosecutor General, a political appointment under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice, had opposed the original County Court decision to terminate proceedings against Savisaar.

Variety of serious health issues

Savisaar's hearings at the first of these, dating back to summer 2017, were constantly halted due to a variety of ailments, mostly revolving around cardiac issues as well as diabetes. The medical opinion of several doctors and specialists, including endocrinologist Vallo Volke. In 2015 Savisaar had a leg amputated following a streptococcal infection contracted on an overseas visit.

Savisaar faced various corruption charges, together with several co-defendants and the Centre Party itself, mostly connected with activities of the Tallinn City Government.

Following Friday's developments, Savisaar will reportedly receive approximately €200,000 in funds confiscated from him through the course of the case, plus a further 300,000 Estonian Kroons (Estonia's national currency prior to adopting the Euro in 2011), or a little less than €20,000.

Savisaar is also applying for compensation for defence costs, according to his lawyer Oliver Naas likely a six-figure sum.

Three prosecutors could not bring down a one-legged man with severe health problems

For his part, after Friday's developments, Savisaar pointed out that no fewer than three prosecutors had been unable to send him down, and issued a chastisement to all of them not to get embroiled in political 'games'.

Writing on his social media account as reported by BNS, Savisaar dealt with the three prosecutors in turn.

''The first was Kadri Väling...[who] started with a request for legal assistance to Switzerland,'' he wrote, referring to a fund in that country which he was alleged to have been a beneficiary of.

''The local court [in Switzerland] took up the case, to sittings were held...the Estonian prosecutor's office was not satisfied by this ruling [ie. by the Swiss court, which concluded Savisaar had not been a beneficiary of the fund in question-ed.] and Kadri Väling was banished to the internal control department, where she no longer has independent work,'' Savisaar continued in his post.

The Kutser tapes

"After that, Laura Vaik was named as my prosecutor [at the Circuit Court-ed.]. Sadly, she soon fell victim to the same fate as Väling. Laura Vaik was accused of spreading an internal memo from the prosecutor's office. It was an internal document from the prosecutor's office that highlighted the weak spots in my accusation. There was criticism. Laura also mistakenly sent this memo to my lawyer. For that, she was also banished to the internal control department," Savisaar continued.

Turning to the third prosecutor he had to face, at the most recent hearing at the Supreme Court, Steven-Hristo Evestus, Savisaar highlighted Mr Evestus' sudden departure from the scene whilst proceedings were at what he, Savisaar, called their most decisive moment.

"Half of the trial was still ahead. Nine lawyers had not yet been questioned, court disputes had not been held yet. What was the reason for Evestus' sudden departure? Some say the failure of Savisaar's court case, other mention the Danske Bank case, third highlight the so-called Kutser tapes. However, it is possible that the matter is simpler and comes down to a fight for power in the prosecutor's office," Savisaar continued, pontificating as to the reasons for Mr Evestus', who had been named prosecutor of the year last year, withdrawal.

The Kutser tapes allegations are directly connected to Savisaar's corruption case; politician and Centre Party member Priit Kutser allegedly was pressured by the prosecution to testify against Savisaar and allegedly recorded what was said to him. The Danske case revolves around over €200 billion in illicit funds allegedly being laundered via the Tallinn branch of the Danish bank over a period of years.

Mr Savisaar concluded by noting three prosecutors in turn were unable to topple a one-legged individual suffering from six incurable illnesses, before going on to wish a happy and peaceful festive season to all three.

"We have become so close with all this time. However, in the future, do not interfere in political games. I wish that for you from the bottom of my heart," Savisaar wrote.

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has also ruled, as a separate issue, that its court ruling regarding Savisaar's release from proceedings due to ill health could be contested.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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