TALLINN - One of the decade's most controversial criminal cases came to an end as Vadim Polischuk, owner of Tallinn's central market, was found guilty on May 5 of ordering the assassination of businessman and Tallinn Deputy Mayor Mait Metsamaa.
The Tallinn Court sentenced both Polischuk, 55, and Andrei Dudochkin, 30, who was contracted on Polischuk's request to kill Metsamaa for $1,000, to nine years in jail.
Valery Kuznetsov, 38, head of the security service of the central market, and security service employee Sergei Normanov, 29, were sentenced to eight years in prison for planning the murder and finding the killer.
Metsamaa, 44, was shot five times in the head and chest and died on Oct. 12, 1999, in the doorway of his downtown apartment. Police believe the murder resulted from a conflict over the central market's privatization.
"Taking into account the gravity of the crime, the fact that the suspects rejected the charges, dragged the court process, put pressure on witnesses and attempted to change their testimony, it is only possible to punish them with actual imprisonment," said judge Violetta Kovask.
Polischuk was taken directly from the courthouse to jail. His lawyer promised to appeal the court's decision, which was mostly based on mobile-phone-call records exchanged between the suspects before and after the murder.
Other crucial evidence included the confession that Dudochkin made during the investigation, although he tried to change it later.
After the failure to privatize the central market in 1996, it was turned into a municipal enterprise headed by Center Party member Metsamaa, who later brought Polischuk into the board. However, three years after a new privatization process, two private companies - one of which Polischuk owned - took the market into their hands.
In 1998 the central market's annual turnover stood at a mere 383,000 euros, while various experts calculated the actual turnover to be 10 times higher.
Disputes surrounding the central market's operations also took the life of Yevgeni Bykov, Polischuk's partner and market co-owner, who was killed in April 1999. Although the case was never opened, there was alleged conflict between Polischuk and Bykov over market management.
Last year, Yevgeni Bykov Jr., the son of Polischuk's partner, was found guilty of conspiring to murder Polischuk in November 1999. Bykov Jr. hired Marat Sadykov, a hitman from Russia, to kill Polischuk. After taking seven bullets from Sadykov, Polischuk managed to survive and even wounded the assailant while firing back.
Polischuk worked as the central market's commercial director until being detained for his alleged connection with Metsamaa's murder. At the end of 2000 the commercial director transferred an 80 percent stake of the market's holding company to his son Andrei.