Editorial: Big Booze Blues

Liviko Laua viin.

PHOTO: Ain Protsin/Postimees

Thus wrote Postimees, in February 1916: the czarist state is setting certain sorts of restrictions on the production of vodka. «Among other things, no new vodka factories are allowed to be built.» In August, same year, we wrote about vodka-making being banned country-wide, as well as sales of the stuff in pubs and eateries, till end of war. 

99 years later, again a vodka factory is getting a governmental squeeze. A different kind, though. As judged by Harju County Court, yesterday, alcohol producer Liviko has engaged in a cartel with retail chains. A highly remarkable ruling in many ways. Firstly, cartel cases are not too widespread in courthouses, being difficult to prove. Secondly, if they ever reach the courts, these would be some smaller stuff.

This time, everyone in Estonia will know the offenders: Liviko as good as epitome of booze maker, and the retail chains such household names as Selver, Prisma, Rimi, Maxima.

And then the vodka, of course. Herein, not expedient to talk about its ills – sufficient to say this is a product well known and widely purchased, and a mover of major money. Thus, by keeping the price artificially high, parties involved must have been «blessed» indeed. That’s the thing with temptations – likely to pop up where great gain comes easy.

The case was long debated. The deed was done as early as summer of 2009. Sure, this being just the first instance sentence, many will challenge and contest. The second, but perhaps only the third and final Supreme Court ruling will grant us assurance the penalties will hold.

Anyway, the evils related to vodka-making continue to be deliberated with gusto. Just like in 1921 when state audit discovered that Eduard Kalkun, a seneschal at Aaspere Manor, had embezzled 42 cords of vodka factory firewood and stood to be held accountable for the badness.

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