At Harju County Court yesterday, court case over alleged criminal gang of Assar Paulus commenced at long last, the materials having been filed this January. Mr Paulus has been under arrest since April last year.
In the bulky case, three men stand accused in leading a criminal organisation, and 18 men and one woman are perceived as belonging to its membership. All in all, 26 individuals and two companies are accused. Put together, the army of lawyers hired is over 20 strong.
Thus, the Harju County Court used its largest hall available, almost packed to capacity. The courthouse also featured enhanced security check. The tradition is to only check entrants at front door; now, police also metal-detected folks, one by one, as they stepped into the hall.
State Prosecutor Kati Reitsak (32) said she would not be reading the statement of charges as it would wear the people out. Instead, Ms Reitsak had prepared a slide show for the audience, in order for people to better understand how the alleged Paulus gang operated. Afterwards, the lawyers were heard complaining that the opening speech by Ms Reitsak was directed towards the media and not the court.
No-one pleaded guilty, yesterday. Ms Reitsak said she had no way of telling when the process might end; even so, Prosecutor’s Office assured us that all accusations will be proven in court.
Pursuant to charges, Assar Paulus, Andres Vaik and Peep Havik are related to management of the criminal organisation. Under them, the leaders arranged a membership which committed crimes and paid part of criminal proceeds into common «pot».
«By the charges brought in this criminal case we will be showing the link between them which is a structure feeding and supporting organised crime featuring standards and norms parallel to state power,» said Ms Reitsak in her opening speech. She added that the structure induced Assar Paulus to support criminals behind bars, and businessmen to conceal actual owners of assets controlled by the criminals.
«This very structure is exceedingly hazardous to public security, as there is no way out of it, and I do not want to live in a Republic of Estonia where everyone would need «protection» and protection «racketeers» would earn income on the basis of fear,» added the prosecutor.