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Arbitration dispute with occupiers of Seaplane Harbor could cost Estonia EUR 1 mln

BC, Tallinn, 25.06.2018.Print version
An arbitration dispute with Aleksandr Rotko, a businessman whose companies illegally controlled the property of the Seaplane Harbor in Tallinn until the mid-2005s, could cost the state of Estonia over one million euros, informs LETA/BNS.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the state's representation expenses in the court of arbitration along with court expenses could cost over one million euros, although if the trial does not reach an end, the expenses will supposedly be lower. The initial determination of circumstances, analysis of evidence and giving an assessment of Estonia's position and outlook are estimated to cost a couple hundred thousands of euros.

In a long letter to Estonian ministries and the international court of arbitration, lawyers representing the company ELA Inc. belonging to Rotko claim that Estonia has subjected the businessman and companies linked to him to unjust treatment and the businessman has suffered damage as a result.

Rotko is claiming 100 million dollars in material damages and 50 million dollars in non-material damages from the Estonian state, complete with the costs of the arbitration proceedings, interest, and various fees.

In 2005, companies connected with Rotko sought 470 million Estonian kroons or about 36 million U.S. dollars in damages from the Estonian state in the same connection.

From 1997 onwards, the government demanded that the companies OU B&E, AS Verest and OU Agrin Partion prove their title to the property of the Seaplane Harbor or hand the property over to the state. The companies meanwhile tried to protract the legal proceedings.

According to the Estonian Ministry of Justice, a company active in the Seaplane Harbor counterfeited an agreement whereby it allegedly obtained title to the buildings from the Soviet armed forces in 1990. Nor could it present proof of a settlement following the conclusion of the contract. In addition, the contract allegedly was not verified with the Ministry of Defense as required by a regulation issued by the Estonian government in 1992.

AS BPV initially wished to set up a customs control zone in the area, but the plan was never carried out because of opposition from the Estonian Ministry of Justice.

"The said land plot belonged to the state already before the start of the Soviet occupation," spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice Tiina Urm told BNS in 2005. At the end of the occupation the land plot in the use of a Soviet military base was sold by Soviet officers to business operators which according to the parties in control of the plot sold it further to companies connected with Aleksandr Rotko, she said.

After a lengthy legal dispute between the Estonian state and Rotko's companies, a court recognized the state as the owner of Seaplane Harbor . The Supreme Court refused to handle an appeal filed by Rotko. According to a representative of the state, it was confirmed during the trial that the properties were acquired in bad faith, that is, the acquiring parties must have been aware of the unlawfulness of the transaction.

According to Rotko, the Estonian state opened a criminal proceeding against him and his wife Olga Kotova following the dispute over damage inflicted on the property of the Seaplane Harbor. In 2007, Estonia issued an European arrest warrant for the arrest of Rotko and Kotova.

Nine years later, on Aug. 8, 2016, Kotova was arrested in Finland and handed over to Estonia on Sept. 23 the same year. On Dec. 8, 2016 the North prefecture of the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board closed the criminal investigation, according to Rotko. On Aug. 1 of the following year Rotko sent out the first notice of the investor dispute.

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