Judiciary proceeding re Skinest Rail can resume in Latvia - Estonian law office

  • 2020-05-27
  • LETA/BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Skinest Rail, a rail services and railroad supply group belonging to Estonian businessman Oleg Ossinovski, has been granted the right to resume a judiciary proceeding concerning the company in Latvia, Ellex Raidla law office announced on Wednesday. 

According to Ellex Raidla, a significant impetus for this was a report on Latvia published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in April, which indicated that the suspension of the handling of said case is not permissible. 

"The court has been saying clearly already since the beginning of 2018 that under Latvian law it is not possible for a foreign company to be tried there, which is why the whole proceeding should have been ended long ago. The prosecutor, however, achieved a situation last fall where the handling of said case was suspended, and only now, after the OECD report, also the prosecutor agreed that one needs to move forward with the case. We hope that at the sitting to take place in September it will be possible to conclusively draw a line under the whole thing,"  Marko Kairjak, attorney at Ellex Raidla, said in a press release.  

In the course of the proceeding that got its start in 2016, Latvian prosecutor Evita Masule in the meantime referred the case to Estonia, indicating that there were no grounds whatsoever for it to be handled in the jurisdiction of Latvia. 

A year later the case was referred back to Latvia, as according to the Office of the Prosecutor General of Estonia it was not possible to hold Skinest Rail responsible pursuant to criminal law on the basis of the materials submitted by the Latvian prosecutor, Ellex Raidla said.

Then prosecutor Masule achieved a suspension of the trial, yet following the publication of the  OECD report Masule in a letter dated May 14 this year admitted to a mistake made and agreed with the arguments of the attorneys for the defense when it comes to reopening of the proceedings. 

A Latvian court decided in January 2018 that the case of Skinest Rail will be separated from the bribery case of Ugis Magonis, former CEO of state-owned railway company Latvian Railways, and sent to an Estonian court for trial, while the trial over Ossinovski himself will continue in Latvia.

The Office of the Prosecutor General of Estonia decided in January 2019 not to take over the criminal procedure of the bribery case related to Skinest Rail and returned the materials to the Latvian colleagues.

Olja Kivistik, adviser at the Office of the Prosecutor General, told BNS in January 2019 that according to the Penal Code in effect, it is not possible to handle independently only the act of a legal person.

Latvian prosecutor's office announced in April this year that it is seeking jail sentences of four years for Latvian Railways' former CEO Ugis Magonis and Estonian businessman Oleg Ossinovski.

The prosecution is also demanding confiscation of Magonis' property and a five-year ban on holding managerial positions in state-owned and municipal enterprises. The prosecution is not asking for any additional penalties for Ossinovski. 

Officers from Latvia's Corruption Prevention Bureau detained Magonis in the summer of 2015 as suspect in accepting a bribe of 500,000 euros from Ossinovski so that Latvian Railways  subsidiary LDz Ritosa Sastava Serviss would purchase four old locomotives for several million euros from Ossinovski's company Skinest Rail.

Magonis and Ossinovski have both pleaded not guilty to the charges brought against them. Ossinovski has admitted giving the money to Magonis, but for an entirely different purpose.