Persons connected with minister may escape

Advokaadid Autorollo protsessil juunis.

PHOTO: Peeter Langovits / Postimees

Preliminary hearing on allegedly criminal bankruptcy of Autorollo kicked off with bravado, yesterday. The Lextal sworn advocate Olavi-Jüri Luik, representing plaintiff – the bankruptcy committee –presented Harju County Court the evidence of five computers’ IP-addresses, used for a number of Autorollo bankruptcy process’ transactions.

Of these, two computers are located at the Riigikogu building in Tallinn, having been used at as much as 12 occasions for Autorollo’s economic affairs. According to plaintiff, the evidence points at transfers made from the parliament in Autorollo’s name at night time, during the spring of 2010 while Väino Pentus, the father of the then Riigikogu vice-chairwoman Keit Pentus, was in hospital.

From this very IP-address, the Wikipedia accounts of Keit Pentus-Rosimannus – now the Minister of the Environment – and her husband Rain Rosimannus are being managed. In the plaintiff’s opinion, this serves to prove that both persons were, in 2010, connected to the Autorollo case.

But that was not all. The plaintiff claims that Argo Hollo, head of  OÜ Renaldo Invest which participated in draining assets from Autorollo, has confessed to them that he was only a front man in what transpired, under orders from sworn advocate Siim Roode and law office MAQS.

This, by essence, is a serious accusation. However, in court, a mere claim by bankruptcy committee will not be enough. Therefore, an application was filed to have Mr Hollo testify.

Who profited? And how?

At plaintiff’s request, Autorollo’s former bookkeeper ought to also appear in court – allegedly claiming that the cash loans issued by the company were fictitious. Meaning that the loan contracts of 3.4 million Estonian kroons were entered into the company’s books retrospectively, only in August 2010.

The thorough overview on the removal of assets from Autorollo sounds logical. However, there are the legal nuances. For instance: the question arises how to claim the economic damage caused, from the accused. What were the additional liabilities assumed in Autorollo’s name during the bankruptcy procedure?

How, for instance, did Ms Rosimannus profit from this? The question was posed to the plaintiff also by judge Anu Uritam, getting a somewhat unclear answer: a part of Autorollo’s money was transferred to acquaintances of Ms Rosimannus, and the latter was supposed to know what was happening. I agree. However, this will not be enough to convict a person.

The bankruptcy committee has tried hard to link those concerned with management of Autorollo. For instance, Mr Rosimannus allegedly send an e-mail to an Autorollo board member, Janos Sillamaa, telling the latter to signal when the boxes are packed, so these could be collected.

Vehicle at friendly price

We are talking about the times when a computer and the car locating system were taken out of the company. Mr Sillamaa having allegedly admitted to the bankruptcy committee that, in June 2010, Ms Rosimannus offered him, in compensation for wages not received, a Ford Tourneo car belonging to Autorollo.

Later, that very Ford was allegedly sold, for 5,000 kroons, to a close friend of Ms Pentus[-Rosimannus’] brother. The real market value of the vehicle, in today’s currency, was about €5,000.

Ms Rosimannus’ links to management decisions at Autorollo are also allegedly proved by an SMS sent by her to a third board member, Tiit Pohl. Väino Pentus then being in hospital and Mr Pohl trying to get contact with his wife Siiri.

In the message sent from Ms Rosimannus’ phone, Mr Pohl is told to leave Siiri alone; and, should Mr Pohl bother the hospitalised Väino, she would acquire protection orders from police. And moving the company money was also allegedly prohibited.

That straight-talking SMS is also included in the court files, as evidence. Ms Rosimannus’ counsel is not denying the existence of the SMS. However, it is supposedly justified by the customer knowing that all who would bother the severely ill Väino Pentus should be kept at bay.

Also, the bankruptcy committee claims that, in February 2010, Ms Rosimannus was personally present at a meeting between Mr Pohl and Väino Pentus, Ms Rosimannus presenting an Excel table containing a plan to save the financially distressed Autorollo.

All said: there are the indirect evidences. For example, 200,000 kroons from money earned from transactions with Autorollo assets were allegedly sent to Kaimo Räppo’s personal bank account. The latter being a sworn advocate and colleague of Mr Roode’s in law office MAQS.

The track of money received from transactions with Autorollo assets disappear in Latvia. For now, this is all.

However, to a large extent, the accusations towards the Pentus camp only constitute the bankruptcy committee’s version. Therefore, judge Uritam also asked the plaintiff if it would not be prudent to link the versions in a manner more definite.

«What is primary is the use of cover directors,» said Mr Luik. Alas, Estonia lacks judicial practice with cases like that.

What did Mr Roode consult?

The theme of bankruptcy committee’s claim being nothing more than a conspiracy theory was also repeated by sworn advocate Toomas Vaher, former head of bar association, defending Ms Pentus-Rosimannus. «This is a theory put together from indirect hints or e-mails,» he said.

Mr Vaher’s defence tactics is simple: IP-address will not prove who exactly sat behind the computer. «For instance, one of the computers mentioned is accessed by the entire family of Keit Pentus-Rosimannus,» said the advocate.

We are talking about the computer located in Väino Pentus’ private house in Viimsi, the internet contract to which was entered into by the Minister of the Environment.

The worst position of those accused is that of the sworn advocate Mr Roode. To defend himself, the latter claims to only have provided legal advice to Väino Pentus, in the Autorollo case.

Still, all (trans)actions by Mr Roode fall not under the category of consultations. Also stressed by the court, proclaiming that the man better have excellent explanations for his actions, at the court session to come.

«Is acquiring a holding in a company also consultation?» the judge asked Mr Roode’s representative. The answer was hesitant: to our knowledge… probably not.

Considering that the numerous e-mails sent by Mr Roode regarding Autorollo contain lots of directives regarding the management of the company, and rather few pieces of legal advice, the head of law office MAQS will have a hard time explaining the issue.