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Former rail boss Magonis and Estonian businessman Ossinovski acquitted in bribery case

One of the highest-profile criminal cases of recent years came to a dramatic conclusion January 21 with the acquital of former Latvian railways chief Uģis Magonis and Estonian businessman Oleg Ossinovski on bribery charges, Latvian Radio reported.

In 2015, the then head of Latvian railways (Latvijas dzelzceļš) Magonis was detained by the anti-graft Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau on suspicion of bribery.

According to the accusation, Estonian millionaire Ossinovski allegedly handed over almost half a million euros to Magonis in connection with the purchase of old diesel locomotives from the Osinovsky-owned company Skinest Rail. 

Magonis, in his defense, told the court that he had received the money from Ossinovski not as a bribe or kickback, but as a reward for lobbying on behalf of his Estonian associate to the management of Russian Railways in a private capacity, even though he was chairman of Latvia's state-owned railway company at the time.

The case went to court in 2017, when both Magonis and Osinovsky were charged. Both denied their guilt. The prosecutor's office asked the court to impose a 4-year prison sentence on both defendants.

As one of the highest-profile businessmen in the country, who held a notoriously lavish birthday party in his own honor at Rundāle Palace, Magonis' fall from grace attracted a great deal of attention, which only increased when anti-corruption officer Juris Jurašs said he had been pressured in connection with the case. Jurašs is now a Saeima deputy with the New Conservative Party.

However, the Vidzeme District Court in Limbaži on Thursday, January 21, acquitted both men.

"I have already pointed out both the poor quality of the accusation and the complete lack of evidence, so such a court ruling is natural," Ossinovski's lawyer Jelena Kjatkovska told the media in a statement following the ruling.

In a statement to the media, Ossinovski expressed satisfaction that "the Latvian judicial system has demonstrated its independence".

"All the facts gathered by the prosecutor's office showed that I had nothing to do with the purchase of diesel locomotives. On the contrary, these facts clearly indicated a completely different transaction, in another country and for different purposes,” Ossinovski said, expressing hopes that the prosecutor's office will not appeal the court's decision.

Magonis and his representatives did not immediately comment on the ruling.

 

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