Prosecutor argument in Port of Tallinn case without merit, says lawyer

Paul Keres.
Paul Keres. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Accusations of bribe-taking against Ain Kaljurand, former manager at the Port of Tallinn (Tallinna Sadam) and his co-defendants are without grounds, says lawyer Paul Keres.

For one thing, since Kaljurand has at no point been employed as an official, he thus cannot be accused of accepting bribes as an official, Keres told BNS.

Keres said the 250-pages of charges against Kaljurand astonishingly provides no evidence of any quid pro quo agreements involving the defendant.

A three-year criminal investigation into Kaljurand, a former manager at the Port of Tallinn, together with former colleague Allan Kiil and former head of Port of Tallinn's service department Martin Paide, led to charges from the prosecutor's office of large-scale bribe taking and money laundering, over the years 2005-2015.

Seven more ''physical'', and two ''legal'', persons had also been charged with engaging in, or being complicit in, bribery.

"It [the statement of charges] simply says that a quid pro quo agreement was entered into at an unknown time, and in an unknown place, and the prosecutor's office makes that claim since transactions violating the rules on procurement, as well as fictional transactions, allegedly took place,'' Keres said, as reported by BNS.

''They are trying to construct an argument indicating that, as this procedure was breached, it constitutes a quid pro quo agreement," he continued.

"Having read through the accusations in depth – which include 77 transactions and activities which the prosecutor's office argues were tainted with actions constituting bribery... concerning 19 of these, even the prosecutor's office itself couldn't figure out what was wrong with them," he added, noting the high point in absurdity came with Kaljurand being accused of bribe-taking for implementing a contract between the Port of Tallinn and the other party to the agreement.

Keres said that a civil action against Kaljurand and Kiil is not substantiated, either.

Supposed bribery-tarnished agreements still in place

Moreover, the Port of Tallinn to this day continues to implement several agreements implemented by Kaljurand and supposedly tainted with bribery issues, Keres said.

"These contracts have not been terminated, so one could conclude that they thus must be rather beneficial to the company," he noted.

The fact that Ain Kaljurand was not an official was also pointed out immediately after the criminal case was launched by the judge, Velmar Brett, who has now taken up a post at the Supreme Court. This was also shortly afterwards reiterated by two circuit court compositions, as well as the Supreme Court, Keres told BNS.

"During the preliminary investigation, the court's explanations were not mandatory to the prosecutor's office, but it would have been reasonable to take them into account, as the third composition of the Tallinn Circuit Court registered this error in the prosecutor's legal assessment, following the presentation of the statement of charges and the interpretation by the said composition is fully supported by the practice of the Supreme Court in other cases," Keres said.

He noted that the prosecutor's office nevertheless stubbornly continues on its current course, likely towards a dead end.

"Due to the intransigence of the prosecutor's office, we are thus in a paradoxical situation where it is clear to all present in this hall today - and I am also referring to the prosecutors, to be quite honest - that even if the factual basis of the accusation should be proven over the next year and a half, then in no way can there be a judgment convicting Ain Kaljurand of the act he is accused of, according to the statement of charges," he said.

Keres said that the statement of charges is as a result fundamentally lacking. 

Lack of clarity on claimed quid pro quo agreements

Keres also told BNS that while there has been much talk about the statement's lack of focus and concreteness, its most notable shortcoming is that the prosecutor's office has not established the time and place of any supposed quid pro quo agreements, or the specific contents thereof.

"Instead, the prosecutor's office has based its accusation in looking for links between two events which were not even parallel in time - firstly, Ain Kaljurand's activities as board member of the Port of Tallinn, and secondly, Ain Kaljurand's alleged fictional transactions with the bribers, as a result of which, rewards were allegedly granted," he said.

Keres opined that during the hearing the main focus is likely to be on activities which, according to the accusations, Kaljurand engaged in while being allegedly motivated by bribe-taking, and granting unfair advantages to certain entrepreneurs, thus violating the transaction-making procedure and the due processes for granting use of the port's assets, as well as breaching the Public Procurement Act 2017.

Keres added that it is quite clear as of today that, if the legal assessment of the case is correct, the accusations will largely fail to stick, even without the help of the defense.

He added that he was certain that, when it comes to the portion of the accusation regarding bribe-taking, the question is one of legal interpretation and that even if the prosecutor's office has all their facts right in this regard, Kaljurand must still be acquitted.

State prosecutor Laura Feldmanis read out the statement of charges on Wednesday, to which all the defendants pleaded not guilty, it is reported.

Paul Keres was nominated Estonian attorney of the year in 2017.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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