Harju County Court on Wednesday found Haron Dikajev, a figure in Estonia's criminal world, guilty of leading a criminal organization and sentenced him to 12 years in prison.
State Prosecutor Vahur Verte said that the defendant's guilt in leading a criminal organization had been proven; he had sought a 12-year sentence for Dikajev.
Defense lawyer Alar Neiland, however, had found that Dikajev must be acquitted of this charge, and sought minimum sentencing if sentencing could not be avoided.
The prosecution sought terms ranging from six years and six months to up to 13 years in length for seven other individuals charged with being members of the organization allegedly led by Dikajev — Sergei Džavakjan, 46, Tanel Mandelkorn, 36, Grigori Bagatoi, 39, Vitali Kaer, 32, Eduard Oleinik, 51, Dmitri Sidorenko, 47, and Jevgeni Podolinski, 39.
Prosecutors also sought for the seizure of some €54,000 from Dikajev, €42,800 from Džavakjan, €158,000 from Mandelkorn, €64,000 from Bagatoi, €41,000 from Kaer, €25,600 from Podolinski, €6,600 from Sidorenko, and €2,990 from Oleinik.
The court found Dikajev and the other defendants guilty, sentencing them to prison terms of varying length.
In summer 2017, former co-defendants Sergei Primak, Sergei Niinemets, Artur-Ažari Simonov, Aleksandr Dmitruk, Robert Raag, Alexander Nikolajev, Valeri Dementjev and Aleksandr Varlamov accepted plea deals and received sentences ranging from a suspended prison sentence to four years in prison. The investigation regarding Andrei Jermolajev, who was accused of aiding tax evasion on a large scale, was discontinued due to a lack of proportionality as Jermolajev is already currently serving an eight-year sentence.
The Prosecutor's Office initially sent 18 people to court, most of them accused of membership of a criminal organization led by Dikajev.
At the beginning of the trial, Dikajev pleaded not guilty to leading a criminal organization, however he pleaded partially guilty to a charge of physical abuse.
Organization members faced various charges
According to charges, the criminal organization in question financed its activities by means of committing various economic crimes and crimes against property. Among other things, VAT fraud was committed that caused hundreds of thousands of euros in damages against Latvia and Lithuania.
According to information gathered in the course of the pretrial investigation, the organization was also financed by means of fraud committed in Estonia, for which people were used who agreed to have their names used in deferred payment and loan agreements; the organization obtained technical equipment and cash as a result of such actions.
The defendants also allegedly committed acts of physical abuse, unauthorized entry, embezzlement, counterfeiting of a document, the use of a counterfeited document, unlawful handling of a firearm silencer, handling of narcotics in a large amount, and traffic offenses.
Five persons who were not members of the alleged criminal organization were accused of aiding members of said organization in the committing of various crimes.
Based on the information gathered in the course of the pretrial investigation, it can be said that the criminal organization had a permanent structure and clear hierarchy, and its aim was to commit various crimes acting under strict conspiracy rules, Verte noted.
"According to the information gathered during the investigation, the organization took care of its members, financed them as well as provided them with housing if necessary," he described. "At the same time, in the event of disobedience or non-fulfillment of orders, members of the organization were punished physically, and the punishment was endured without putting up any resistance."
Ago Leis, director of the Organized Crime Department of the Central Criminal Police, said that the investigation in this criminal case lasted for more than three years.
"In this time, the specific role and actions of each member of the criminal organization had to be determined separately," Leis said. "To prove various criminal activities, evidence was gathered piece by piece, and each piece of evidence was analyzed. In the case of tax crime, we cooperated closely with Latvian and Lithuanian authorities, and all of this took time."
Arrests begin in 2015
Central Criminal Police arrested most of the members of the alleged group in April and June 2015. Dikajev was arrested late last June, and Harju County Court took him into custody on July 1.
Led by the Central Criminal Police and supervised by the Office of the Prosecutor General, the criminal investigation was launched at the end of 2012.
Dikajev has stood trial for serious offenses on several previous occasions, but had been cleared of the most serious charges against him.
In 1995, he stood trial for his alleged role in the disappearance of three members of the so-called Krasnodar gang in a turf war between the Krasnodar and Chechen gangs in Estonia. Two of the missing men were later found dead; the third remains missing. Dikajev, who was accused of organizing their killing, was eventually sentenced to two years in prison for illegal possession of a firearm, as charges of organizing the killing could not be upheld in court. He was released early for good conduct.
In 1999, Dikajev was tried again for his alleged role in the 1995 turf war and found guilty of hooliganism by a first-tier court. The verdict was overturned in a second-tier court, however.
In late September 2002, Dikajev was arrested as a suspect in organizing the killing of media businessman Vitali Haitov, but was later released due to lack of evidence.
In December 2005, a court found Dikajev and five other defendants guilty of blackmailing a businessman for 100,000 kroons (€6,400); they were sentenced to four years in prison.
Dikajev is a board member of the Chechen Youth Association and the owner and board member of OÜ Emir Invest.
Editor: Aili Vahtla