Railways boss led cops in high speed chase, foiled by roadworks

Details of the arrest of former Latvian Railways boss and business high-flyer Ugis Magonis were becoming more colorful by the minute Tuesday with unofficial information suggesting he crossed the border from Estonia in a car with nearly half a million euros in the trunk - and then attempted to escape in a high speed chase. 

It also looks increasingly clear that the role played by Estonian law enforcement working in tandem with Latvia's KNAB anti-corruption force has proven crucial in apprehending Magonis.

Magonis, the former head of Latvijas Dzelzcels (Latvian Railway), tried to escape from the anti-corruption officers who had arrived to detain him last week, information obtained by the BNS newswire suggests.

Magonis was detained as he was returning from Estonia in a car driven by his chauffeur, but the first attempt to arrest him was made already at the Estonian-Latvian border. Ignoring an order to pull up, the two started to flee at a speed of up to 200 kilometers per hour.

The chase ended after several kilometers when the vehicles reached a road section under reconstruction, which made fast driving impossible.

At that point, Magonis probably regretted opting for the car rather than the train.

The Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has launched a criminal investigation against Magonis for accepting a large bribe, which the LTV channel said amounted to nearly half a million euros and was in the car with him, suggesting a good old-fashioned attache case full of cash may have been the old-school modus operandi.

The criminal investigation was launched under an article of the Penal Law on large-scale graft committed by a state official, in connection with a procuremet contract. The offense carries a jail term of two to ten years, confiscation of property and a ban on holding certain offices for up to five years.

Diena.lv, an Internet portal of Latvia's daily Diena, reported that Magonis is suspected of accepting a bribe worth 500,000 euros in connection with a tender for four diesel locomotives organized by the railway company's subsidiary, LDZ Ritosa Sastava Serviss, which was won by Estonian businessman Oleg Ossinovski's company Skinest.

Estonia's ERR News has reported that Ossinovski, a known associate of Magonis and regarded by some as Estonia's richest man, had his property searched by Estonian law enforcement officers in what appears to have been a coordinated operation. 

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