The Tallinn-based Harju County Court on Wednesday acquitted businessman Hillar Teder, former Center Party secretary general Mihhail Korb and the Center Party of influence peddling.
The court found that the guilt of the accused has not been proven. In order to convict them, it is required to establish a consensus that the donation was made in return for influencing Mihhail Kolvart.
“It has been proven that meetings and conversations took place where the topic of easement was discussed and it was decided to ask the mayor for help. The court is of the opinion that connecting the offer of donation with Mihhail Korb’s promise to influence the mayor is not proven by anything and the time gap between the two topics was long. These conversations cannot be clearly linked. The conclusion of an injustice agreement is an assumption in the eyes of the court and there is no evidence to that effect. According to the court, the injustice agreement could not be derived indirectly either,” the court said.
According to the court, it has not been proven that Mihhail Korb had influence over Mihhail Kolvart and the application for an unequal and unwarranted advantage for OU Porto Franco from the point of view of public interest has also not been proven.
Korb’s lawyers submitted a request to compensate Korb for the damage caused by the criminal proceedings, which the court rejected, because Korb voluntarily left the position of secretary general.
Korb not running in the Riigikogu elections was also decided by the Center Party itself. The argument about the violation of the presumption of innocence by the prosecutor’s office is not justified in the eyes of the court, since it was merely a description of the suspicion, and not a premature conviction.
The court decided that the state must compensate for Hillar Teder’s legal aid costs in the amount of 166,438.50 euros, Mihhail Korb’s legal aid costs in the amount of 49,526.40 euros, and the Center Party’s legal aid expenses in the amount of 54,081.19 euros.
The decision has not yet entered into force and it can be challenged in the circuit court within 30 days from the day when the full text of the decision is available in the e-file.
In June, Chief State Prosecutor Taavi Pern sought a real jail sentence of one year and six months for Teder and a conditional sentence of one year and three months with a probation period of two years for Korb. The state prosecutor demanded a financial penalty of 750,000 euros for the Center Party and the confiscation of 120,000 euros donated to the party by Teder.
The lawyers of Korb, Teder and the Center Party found that the guilt of their clients has not been proven and they must be acquitted.
According to the statement of charges, Korb, while being secretary general of the Center Party, used his personal influence as well as that of his party over the mayor of Tallinn in the interests of Teder and the company OU Porto Franco developing real estate in Tallinn’s passenger port area in order for Porto Franco to be granted an unwarranted advantage by the Tallinn mayor and his subordinate city officials with regard to setting an easement fee for the project. In return for the favor, Teder promised to support the Center Party with a donation of up to one million euros.
In the assessment of the prosecutor’s office, the Tallinn city government did not follow the standard practice and pricing principles when setting the fee for an easement for Porto Franco. As a result, the easement fee set for Porto Franco was reduced from 776,580 euros to 301,000 euros while Teder made a donation of 120,000 euros to the Center Party.
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